No time for levityA strike is often the final option for disgruntled workers, and it is imperative that they consider carefully before taking the critical decision to stop work.
A workers’ strike has a tremendous impact on the national economy. In particular, we need to calculate the ripple effects of a general strike on a national scale.
However, we are concerned that recent comments by Lee Seok-haeng, the President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, seem to lack the requisite serious attitude.
He is known to have said, “I wanted to embark on a struggle against the Lee Myung-bak administration like a soccer game, focusing on both total attack and total defense. However, as the cargo workers’ union has already initiated a general strike, I changed my game to baseball.”
It means that as the cargo laborers’ union is the lead-off batter, he plans that the construction workers’ union will be the second, and metal and railway laborers will be the fourth and fifth hitters. He publicly spoke of “tactics” that will paralyze the government through a series of consecutive general strikes.
Clearly, he was trying to make people understand his intentions by using a simple metaphor, but it is inappropriate to compare a general strike to a sports game. The inescapable implication is that he is not treating the worker’s challenge and the national economy with the right degree of gravitas.
The Korean Cargo Workers’ Union is said to decide whether to go on a general strike on June 16. The construction workers’ union ? consisting of dump truck and ready-mix concrete drivers ? and the Korea Construction and Mechanics Laborers’ Union under the auspices of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions are committed to strike the same day. Construction, metal, and railway workers’ unions are scheduled to call strikes too.
A fair and legal labor movement is a worker’s right. However, a general strike is not a trivial issue comparable to sports or games. If Lee Seok-haeng is a leader of the national laborers’ union, he must recognize the seriousness of the national economy and appreciate why certain policies are made.
Korea’s current economic situation is far more challenging than previously thought.
It’s no laughing matter.