[EDITORIALS]Workers bills only a start

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[EDITORIALS]Workers bills only a start

on Thursday, the National Assembly finally passed labor bills that had been stalemated for five years.
About 5.5 million non-regular workers who have been suffering discrimination and job insecurity are soon to have a minimum legal safety net to protect their rights and interests.
But both business and labor, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, are still not satisfied with these bills. Labor unions contend that protection of non-regular workers is not strong enough and they are moving in the direction of opposing the bills altogether.
Business also worries that labor costs will increase because it will have to offer better job conditions for non-regular workers and incur costs for lawsuits related to employment disputes.
Of course, these bills are not perfect ones for either labor or business. But it is meaningful that the governing and opposition parties finally produced a consensus after five years of controversies and debates, taking the first step to protect non-regular workers.
It is better to create a legal and institutional framework, even an imperfect one, than to leave non-regular workers unprotected entirely.
Although a system to protect non-regular workers is coming, that does not mean that all essential problems have been solved.
Labor and business have been at odds over the issue of workers with short-term contracts. The bills grant them regular-worker status after two years on the job. But even if they have two-year contracts, there is still a possibility that they could be fired after two years.
There are chances that companies will employ a smaller number of non-regular workers if they think labor costs will increase. They also worry that they will lose flexibility in employment matters because non-regular workers are to be automatically hired as regular workers doing the same jobs and for the same wages after a certain period of time. If such things happen, a system to protect non-regular workers can end up taking away their jobs.
It is not easy to guarantee flexibility in employment and to create job security for non-regular workers at the same time. The key is concessions by regular workers who are guaranteed high wages and job security from their employers.
We urge labor and business to find ways to solve these problems in the bills before they take effect next July.
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