Turning a blind eye

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Turning a blind eye

An investigation conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security revealed that most local government offices handled collective agreements between labor and management in an illegal manner.

According to the ministry, 80.4 percent of local government offices - or 78 local municipalities including Jongno District, central Seoul, among 97 government offices that were inspected - paid full-timers who work for labor unions. In effect, they breached the act covering civil workers’ labor unions.

In some cases, government employees did not take leave from their ordinary jobs when they worked for the labor unions and received salaries from both their employer and the union.

Civil workers are supposed to abide by the law, but they were the first ones to break it. Nonetheless, they are far from feeling sorry for what they have done. The spokesperson of the umbrella union of civil workers nationwide said it’s an accepted practice. But the incumbent government raises questions about it and has said that a ban on letting civil employees work with labor unions during working hours amounts to a clause to oppress the unions.

A big part of the problem is that the heads of municipal offices pursue their own interests by collaborating with labor unions. They are supposed to serve as a watchdog of labor and management and carry out reforms to increase productivity. But they avert their eyes to illegal acts in order to win elections and to avoid trouble.

To eradicate the deep-rooted illegal practices of labor unions and management, any party that ignores the illegal acts must be punished severely.

The government has the responsibility to end the illegal acts of labor unions and management in the public sector. And residents must hold local governments responsible. If heads of local governments ignore these problems in order to earn more votes in elections, only voters can punish the leaders by not electing them again.

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security said it would publicize a list of local governments that do not correct illegal practices by labor unions and management. As many as 57 percent of local government offices among 230 across the country cannot even pay their labor costs with their own tax revenues.

If the head of a local government wastes money by paying full-time labor workers double - while his office stays afloat only because of its share of local taxes - his pledges are nothing but empty promises. Voters must not elect him in the next election. That is the only way to end the illegal practices that damage the competitiveness of local economies.
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