[EDITORIALS]Occupational failureThe nine-day occupation that construction workers in the Pohang area illegally staged at Posco headquarters showed the consequences of what happens when law and principles are neglected. The labor unions, which incorrectly believed they could accomplish their goals by badgering, gave birth to this incident. And even after the occupation came to a close, it was difficult to discover any type of law and principle. The government kept its hands off until the sixth day, when it offered to bridge negotiations with management if the workers left. But upon facing severe criticism, the government did an about-face and stated two days later it would not compromise.
Police officials were afraid of the possibility that they would be held responsible for any injuries to union members during a forceful entrance. Only after the Blue House announced it would use all measures to bring an end to the occupation, did the police start to take action. During the previous eight days, a large dent was delivered to the trust rating of not just Posco, but Korea as a whole. However, considering that former national police commissioner-general Huh Joon-young was forced to resign after the deaths of two farmers during protests late last year, it might have been natural for the police to have waited for orders from the Blue House.
Posco deserves credit for its hard-line stance and for refusing to talk with the construction union, stating it would not compromise with illegal acts and violence. The company did not repeat its mistake in 2003, when it negotiated and accepted the demands of the unionized truckers, which was not a negotiating party.
From now on, the government must guarantee legal union activities and demonstrations to occur while standing up against illegal acts, such as throwing rocks, using steel pipes, bamboo sticks, illegally occupying buildings and roads, wandering off approved demonstration areas and invading police lines.
Companies must also stick to the “no work no pay rule” and force labor unions to compensate for any damage caused by illegal strikes. Only then will the relations between management and unions return to normal.
The labor sector must have learned its lesson. The recent campaign by Hyundai Motors union members to cease spending at local businesses in Ulsan that refused to support the strike has been met with severe criticism, as large as the one in Pohang by the local community. Strikes that neglect principles will be given a cold shoulder by the public.