A union out of bounds

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A union out of bounds

The Korea Confederation of Trade Unions appears to be desperate to provoke a general strike no matter what.

It marshaled the members of the metalworkers’ union into illegal street protests in Seoul late last month ahead of the first anniversary of the candlelight protests against U.S. beef imports. Last weekend it mobilized more than 10,000 of its more militant members to fill the streets of Daejeon in support of the strike of the independent truckers’ union.

The umbrella trade union is demanding the government uphold the truckers’ union’s constitutional right to collective bargaining and its right to protest.

But the KCTU politicized the dispute the moment it got involved, with a rallying cry about safeguarding worker rights.

It cannot be unaware of the fact that the law bans strikes by the private truck owners’ association that is the truckers’ union, whose members are all self-employed.

It must know, too, that the current labor dispute was fueled in part by the suicide of a union member protesting a hike in forwarding fees and is therefore unrelated to workers’ rights.

We have to question the umbrella union’s motives. It is pushing for political protests even as the country remains mired in an ongoing economic crisis.

Meanwhile, member unions are leaving the KCTU one after another, disillusioned and fed up with its militant protests and recent allegations of corruption.

The trade union recently declared it will go ahead with the general strike planned for June if authorities do not cease the crackdown on the truckers’ union in Daejeon. It was audacious for it to say that the police are suppressing democracy even as its members are exhibiting violent behavior against police officers.

We may have been naive to expect the organization to reform itself, and we may have no choice but to let it fall. It is a shame, however, to see union members doing the dirty work for their leaders.

The authorities must not tolerate the KCTU’s violent rallies. Those behind the strikes must be punished to the full extent of the law. The public cannot afford to endure any more harm during these tough economic times.

Now it is up to the government to find a solution for what is becoming a serious social problem. It should act on the agreement it made with the truckers’ union last year to overhaul the logistics structure while also eliminating the union’s grounds to strike.

Then, it can turn its attention to helping workers in specialized fields who are not yet organized into unions.
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