[EDITORIALS]A friend of labor?Lee Sang-soo, the candidate named as the new labor minister, is making controversial remarks day after day. Without grasping the situation, he is expressing his opinion on sensitive labor issues and perplexing ministry officials. It has gotten to the point that the Blue House has instructed candidates for ministerial positions not to make remarks that could bring confusion to related ministry officials doing their work. Since the second half of last year there has been no communication between the government and the labor world, as both sides have been firmly entrenched behind their battle lines.
This is due to the market-first labor policy that was promulgated by former labor minister Kim Dae-hwan. Under these conditions the labor world has been wanting a new minister, and the candidacy of Mr. Lee has stoked worries among people that the labor policy implemented so far might be shaken.
In particular, the ousting of Mr. Kim is thought to be a move by the administration to win favor from the labor world ahead of upcoming elections. This is particularly apparent given that despite his background as a liberal scholar, Mr. Kim stood his ground against unreasonable demands by labor unions, maintaining principles and balance. He also pointed out the excessive politicization of the labor movement.
The first test for candidate Lee will be dealing with laws on irregular workers and making a road map for establishing healthy relations between management and labor. The legislation on irregular workers, which is related to the fate of 850,000 desperate workers, and the handling of the road map scheduled to be legally enforced next year are issues that can no longer be delayed.
The government’s stance on the issue is that since a compromise between management and labor is difficult, a decision must be made and legislation should proceed as soon as possible. Regarding this, Mr. Lee has said that he won’t push the matter. Regarding the law on irregular workers, he has asked for concessions by management. Thus, even before he has taken up his position, people are saying that he is on the side of labor. If these comments lead to material changes in labor policy, it’s a big problem.
Candidate Lee, working as a labor lawyer, has often jumped into the middle of disputes. It’s a matter of interest how this friendly attitude towards labor will affect the administration. He has to remember that normalization between management and labor starts when the government keeps neutrality.