Sharing the painCorporations are increasingly combating unprecedented economic times through the combined efforts of workers and management. Labor has conceded to pay cuts or freezing salaries, while in return management has promised not to slash jobs.
Automotive parts maker Shinchang Electrics Ltd. has guaranteed jobs for every employee after an agreement on lower salaries was reached. Shinchang employees defied the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions’ advice to its umbrella unions that they fight for job-sharing without pay cuts, and instead chose to accept their employer’s terms. They were probably aware that confrontation and self-interest do not make the best expedient during times of drastically reduced sales in the global automobile industry and when the country is mired in economic crisis.
According to the Labor Ministry, companies that agreed on peaceful labor terms last year totaled 2,689, up nearly threefold from a year earlier. Also, the number of companies opting for job-sharing as a means of minimizing job losses is surging.
Joint efforts by management and labor forces in the face of the financial emergency offers a silver lining on the economic outlook. Even though politicians show no remorse or fail to show a desire to initiate a rescue effort, we see hope as “common people power” blossoms from the industrial front.
Multinational companies in advanced industrial markets are speeding mass layoffs to stay afloat. Chopping jobs can temporarily lighten management problems, but cannot be deemed smart in the long run. A rise in unemployment can cut consumption and because of poor sales, companies need to resort to layoffs that will eat away at their competitive edge.
Therefore, companies opting for a win-win strategy to withstand the present difficulties will be best equipped for a new global economic order after current problems pass.
But in order for the budding labor-management relationship to bear fruit, it must become sustainable. The government must lend its support so painstaking corporate-labor union efforts can succeed. Speedy funding for banks and tax benefits can be a much-needed boost. Politicians should stop bickering and map out legal devices to support companies and their workforce.
Sharing jobs has long been a laudable legacy from our society’s agricultural past. Helping out neighbors helped our country through a series of crises.
And remember, volunteers flooding from across the country helped put the blue back into the waters of Taean in just a few months after the 2007 oil spill, setting a record in the world’s environmental history.
This level of pain sharing may also help our country become the first to pull out of the present global economic turmoil.