What’s a union’s word worth?After the Kia Motors branch of the metal workers’ union decided to stage a partial strike July 15, the automaker’s union workers decided to stage a full strike beginning yesterday. The union workers cite failed negotiations with management over wage increases as the reason for the decision.
However, the union workers’ decision to stage a strike was made hastily, and it is a brazen act, betraying the trust that the people had placed in the company and the union.
The government has implemented a measure to revive the country’s auto industry in the form of tax exemptions for domestic automakers, including Kia Motors, on the condition that management and labor relations improve.
To boost domestic demand for vehicles, which had fallen catastrophically due to the economic crisis, the government granted discounts of up to 70 percent off the acquisition tax and registration fee when a person purchases a new car until the end of the year.
And in return the government asked just one thing: that automakers cure their chronic illness - distorted labor-management relations. When a certain industry receives support from taxpayers, that industry must make corresponding efforts to overcome its difficulties.
The auto industry accepted the condition willingly. In doing so carmakers made a promise to the people as well as to the government.
Thanks to the government’s help, the auto industry has managed to succeed despite the global economic slowdown and decimated demand.
However, the union workers at Kia Motors broke their promise after less than three months had passed. The labor union might claim that it was the company, not the union, that made the promise. But the labor union exists only because the company exists.
Management was not the only beneficiary of the promise, either. Labor unions benefited from the bolstered demand for cars. If the promise is broken, there is no way the labor union can achieve the goal of its strike - pay increases.
The labor union stayed quiet when the company was in trouble and sought help from the government, and now that the company is showing signs of recovery the union behaves as if it never heard about the promise. This is certainly not a fair attitude.
Some argue that as the union has decided to stage a strike, the government support should be reduced or abolished completely. The union should remember this.
There is no reason to use taxpayers’ money to support a labor union that pursues only its own interests with constant strikes.