Feb. 11 marked the first anniversary of the strategic coalition between the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the ruling Grand National Party.
The grandiose catchphrase of the partnership - “union-political join together to prop up economic recovery” ?? proved no more than a hollow tooting as the two have shown little cooperation for such a purpose over the past year.
In fact, the coalition is teetering on the brink of a breakup following confrontation after confrontation over issues regarding overhaul of the public sector and part-time workers.
On Nov. 30, some 10,000 members of the country’s largest union group staged an anti-government rally at the Yeouido Square in Seoul to protest against the government’s decision to allow employers to keep part-time workers for more than the current two-year threshold.
The unionists recently announced all-out war with the government, threatening to stop the railways and cut off electricity in order to get their voices heard in government, moves that resemble the radical Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
The relationship between the two, representing labor and pro-enterprise interests, looked shaky from the start. The FKTU claims the president and ruling party have betrayed union supporters, placing the entire blame on them for the breakup. But the government and ruling party at least have been consistent in their principles. It was the GNP’s stance from the start that restructuring in the public sector was not an issue for negotiation but a matter of ironing out differences. So the blame should be on the union’s side who wished for the impossible out of the relationship.
The trade union should stop wasting its energy on politics and concentrate more on serving the needs of the people and the market. Did it not proclaim that it will stand at the forefront to save the economy when it joined up with the ruling party?
What people desperately want is job stability. The FKTU should sit down with employers’ associations and come up with guidelines to save as many jobs as possible. Political parties from all sides are in one voice calling for harmonious relationships between labor, employer and political sectors to resolve job losses amid a quickly receding economy.
We hope the FKTU as a labor sector leader will take up the role of bringing together public wisdom to help fight the economic troubles and cajole the KCTU to join the effort.