[EDITORIALS]A union that does it rightThe members of the labor union of Kolon’s Gumi factory ― the staple of hardcore labor union groups ― have untied their headbands and taken it upon themselves to revive their company. The labor union has hung up a banner saying it will “become one” with the management in order to be “reborn as a company that is loved by the citizens.” The banner also says that the union would compensate for the anxieties it has caused by helping to keep the company flourishing.
The reason the transformation of Kolon’s labor union is beautiful is that it was famous for its hard-core strikes, which were carried out on a regular basis starting in 1988, when the union was established.
When the firm laid off 49 people after a 64-day strike and closing of the company in 2004, the union members did not hesitate to take illegal acts to fight against the firm. They occupied the offices and intruded into the Kolon chairman’s private residence.
This union has been changed by the union members themselves. They have realized at last that they have earned nothing by extreme fighting. Last month, labor union members elected a new union leader who advocated cooperation and goodwill between labor and management. The support for the new leader was 90 percent.
The labor union apologized to the community for the negative effects it caused to the regional economy due to the strikes it staged. It also formed a volunteer group composed of union members and management. Senior members of the labor union made rounds to companies that used its company’s products, and pledged not to conduct any more strikes, but to give them the best quality products. They also asked their clients to buy more products, saying they would meet the deadlines.
Kim Hong-yeol, head of the labor union, said he used to think a good fight would earn them better wages, but they ended up with lower profits and less people. “The labor union members have earned nothing. There used to be 3,500 members, but most have left the company on honorary resignation and now only 812 are left,” he said.
His words ring true. A hardcore struggle never benefits anyone. In our businesses, there are still many belligerent labor unions, such as those of Hyundai Motor. They should keep in mind the words of Kolon’s Mr. Lee: “I’ve found out how precious and happy I can be for receiving my monthly salary. We must cooperate instead of fighting in order to create profits. It will make wage raises possible. That is stabilizing employment.”