No sympathy for strike

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No sympathy for strike

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions finally started a strike. The Metalworkers’ Union under the umbrella union staged a partial strike for two hours in major factories such as the Hyundai Motor plant. From today, unionists across the country plan to come to Seoul for strike rallies and to attend candlelight vigils. If the government doesn’t meet the unionists’ demands, they say they plan to continue strikes, cutting off electricity and stopping trains, until September.

Unionists talk about four reasons for their strike. They demand that the government halt importing U.S. beef; they want reforms in the public sector, a cross-country waterway project and measures against soaring commodity prices. None of these is relevant to their working conditions. As the people criticize them, the umbrella union tries to incite union members with arguments that don’t make sense. They say the U.S. beef imports are related to their working conditions as workers with low income have more chances to get the human equivalent of mad cow disease. They even said it is OK to stage a strike that may damage production but not the country’s economy.

The strike was forcefully carried out despite opposition among union members and it is already producing side effects. Hyundai Motor’s union opposed staging a strike over political issues, but it was mobilized against its will. This was because the union of a single company must obey decisions made by the union of the same industry. After the strike, arguments that they should break away from the industry union poured onto the bulletin board of the Web site of the company.

The country’s economy is on thin ice. Signs of stagflation, which means soaring commodity prices and slow growth, are becoming clear. Staging strikes under these circumstances will make the life of working-class people even harder. The truckers’ strike last month has damaged the economy seriously. Yesterday’s strike caused a loss of 200 billion won ($188 million) in production at Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors. There are signs that foreign investors might leave Korea for fear of violent protests. The KCTU must think again and stop the strikes. If unionists ruin the entire pie, nothing will be left to share.

The administration must establish law and principles firmly. Because the strike is illegal from the beginning, there is no room for sympathy.

That is the right way to save all the people from agony.

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