[EDITORIALS]Tripartite torpor

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[EDITORIALS]Tripartite torpor

Representatives from labor unions, businesses and the government failed again to reach a consensus on a road map aimed at improving the relationship between labor and management. The differences in opinions are so wide that it seems impossible to narrow them. A road map is scheduled to be implemented in January next year, so the procedure to legalize it must be finalized this year. The International Labor Organization put pressure on the government to bring laws and regulations on labor issues up to global standards. The road map was designed three years ago, but its ratification has been delayed for a variety of reasons. The road, it seems, is merely a dead end.
If the parties cannot come to a consensus, the government plans to make the contents of the road map public with or without the consent of labor and management. But labor unions say a consensus should be made first. The major issues are negotiation channels for multiple labor unions and wages for full-time workers at labor unions. The government says negotiation channels should be unified if multiple labor unions are involved. Labor unions say it should be up to them to decide.
The government presented a compromise suggestion for wages for full-time union workers: Conglomerates would be prohibited from paying wages to full-time workers for unions, but small- and mid-size companies can pay partial wages for those workers. However, the unions insist that the wages be paid fully by companies, while businessmen claim that they cannot afford to do so. Reaching a consensus seems nearly impossible. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions say they will hold strikes if the government pushes its plan. In fact, it is unclear whether the plan will even be passed by the National Assembly.
What has the Korean Tripartite Commission done until now? The commission has not been working properly, as the two major union federations left the commission and came back. The Commission has long lost its role as arbiter because it cannot decide on anything if the unions or businesses oppose it. The commission was formed to coax compromises and help form a consensus. But few say the commission played an important role in reducing tension and resolving conflicts between labor and management.
To calm the chaos, the government should stand firm without being driven by political logic and arguments. If the commission is unlikely to resolve a problem, it is up to the government to make a decision.
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