[EDITORIALS]Risks of interventionUnion pilots at Korean Air ended their four-day walkout after the government invoked its “emergency mediation authority,” which forced the union to return to work. This is welcome news for end-of-year holiday travelers and exporters using air cargo services. However, it is regrettable that for the second time following Asiana Airline’s walkout last summer, the government had to intervene.
The National Labor Relations Commission now has fifteen days to mediate an agreement between pilots and management. Should talks fail, the union is compelled to accept mediation by the commission, even if it contains less favorable terms than prior draft agreements.
In the end, the union has gained nothing but wounds from this fight. The media was hostile to “union aristocrats” who receive an average annual wage of 100 million won ($96,730) yet were selfish enough to cause great inconvenience to the public and the national economy.
There was also much public resentment about enduring annual walkouts at companies with monopolistic power. The economic loss of over 180 billion won in exports and travel industry income incurred by the four-day strike is now everyone’s burden. The pilots will not be viewed with much sympathy by non-pilot union workers either, as they must forsake annual bonuses because of losses sustained during the walkout.
This is the fourth time that the government has invoked its emergency mediation authority. It is a drastic prescription, which paralyzes labor-management relations, causing serious problems. The government claims that invoking the authority was inevitable because the scale of damage to public order and the economy was greater this time than during the Asiana walkout.
However, the labor unions feel the government is abusing its authority and violating labor rights. This might aggravate the tension and distrust between labor, management and the government. Moreover, government-labor relations are at nadir at present because of disagreements over the bill to regulate irregular employees and revisions to the labor-management roadmap.
The government is working to abolish forced mediation ― which prevents a walkout beforehand ― in essential service industries such as hospitals, subways and city gas. To prepare for such a situation, the government must reach a consensus on plans for a system to respond to walkouts in essential service industries.