[EDITORIALS]Principles, pleaseFormer Labor Minister Kim Dae-hwan, who stressed “law and principles” in labor-management problems when he was in the cabinet, is emphasizing law and principles once more. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, he sharply criticized the government, the labor movement and management for acting without regard to principle.
Some of the government’s unprincipled acts that Mr. Kim pointed out included an incident when former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan ignored the Labor Ministry and met with the heads of the two umbrella labor groups. Other cases were when the former Labor Minister Kwon Ki-hong mediated a conflict at Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction and when Lee Hun-jai, a former finance minister, requested substitute workers when employees at KorAm Bank went on strike. Mr. Kim also revealed that the Blue House ignored his proposals to demote the head of the National Health Insurance, who dealt with the union behind the scenes, and that the prime minister’s office hesitated to issue an emergency arbitration order during the Korean Air pilots’ strike last year. This shows that the Blue House and prime minister’s office, which should protect principles and the law, tried to solve problems politically.
Before he was a minister, Mr. Kim was known as a liberal economist. Throughout his term, he teetered on the edge of resigning because of opposition from labor. He tried to protect principles and not lean toward either side. That is why his critiques are powerful and credible, especially when he said that former Prime Minister Lee used 1980s tactics in approaching labor issues.
After Mr. Kim left his cabinet post in early February, there were new signs of illegal activities. When the railroad union went on strike, management was leaning toward re-hiring the illegal strikers. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which opposes the passage of a bill that supports non-regular workers’ rights, is planning a political strike next month.
But there are also problems with management. Some owners of companies with long-standing conflicts refuse to talk to their union and hire private guards prone to violence. As Mr. Kim points out, management should also adhere to principles.
The government and Uri Party must pass the non-regular worker bill in the Assembly in April and deal with the strike according to the law. Those who broke in to the Kolon chairman’s home yesterday must be punished also.
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