More unions defy the KCTUNine labor unions of public agencies in Gyeonggi under the umbrella of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions yesterday announced a grand compromise with the authorities in the provincial office.
It was the first time an organization under the KCTU had participated in an official discussion or declaration of reconciliation between labor and management since the umbrella labor union broke away from the Tripartite Commission, consisting of labor, management and the government, in 1999. The unions that made the declaration were notorious for conducting militant protests. Six hospital labor unions, including the Suwon hospital of the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center, and three unions in the public service field, including the Korean Artists’ Union, served as the advance guard of the KCTU.
These unions defied their umbrella organization’s ban on participating in compromises in order to survive. They believed that if they continued following their leaders, who have staged protests for political causes and have been implicated in corruption, they would face ruin amid the unprecedented unemployment crisis.
A union leader who took part in the grand compromise said, “We ignored the higher organization’s order, which for us is the same as the law, and we risked receiving disciplinary punishment.” This reveals their desperate situation.
If the KCTU sticks to political and anti-market fights, such as opposing reform in the public sector, its labor unions will keep breaking away from the umbrella organization. That is because relying on a leadership that refuses change and goes against the trends of the time is tantamount to self-destruction for unions.
The leadership of the KCTU declared it would give up strikes, saying, “The field is becoming more rational,” but only days later some of its labor unions led candlelight vigils, and the leaders did not do anything to stop it. This shows that the organization says one thing but does another.
We hope that the KCTU will recover its senses and come back to reality. This year so far, around 10 labor unions have broken away from it. Four labor unions, including the one at Hyundai Construction, have said they would leave the KCTU.
The action by the labor unions in the Gyeonggi Province branch of the KCTU shows which path the umbrella labor organization must take. What the people want most now is security in employment, and labor organizations need to do their best to save their members’ jobs.
If the KCTU refuses to do so, its member unions will work on securing the jobs by themselves. The move by the nine labor unions in Gyeonggi Province is only the beginning.