Rewarding labor relationsDongbu Steel Co. and 11 others have received state awards for their contributions toward fostering peace in the industrial sector. They have provided an alternative path for the labor community, which is notorious for its militant protests.
Dongbu Steel earned its presidential award for the efforts of its labor and management bodies. The two sides forged a partnership, after years of being at odds, to battle through economic hardship as the Asian region was swept up in the financial crisis of the late 1990s. As the company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, unionists agreed to voluntary wage cuts and the management found ways to share the burden.
These efforts left the company better equipped to fight last year’s global financial meltdown, using the momentum to solidify their united front and leapfrog any remaining difficulties. Their efforts paid off for the employer and its employees. The company’s bottom line continued to improve and no employees have been laid off since 1998.
The company has repaid its staff by offering complete college scholarships with no limits on the number of children who are eligible and free lease of residential staff apartments.
Hyundai Heavy Industries, which shared the presidential prize with Dongbu, and Seoul Metro, which received a prime minister’s award, were once notorious for labor conflicts. But both have transformed their work sites from battlefields into grounds for peaceful coexistence through reciprocal concessions and understanding.
Harmonious labor and management relations are particularly crucial at a time when the local economy is bottoming out following the economic downturn. Labor conflicts have long served as a barrier to economic development. Imagine what our economy could do without them.
The government has been giving awards for progressive labor-management relations every year, but it needs to boost the rewards, given the importance of peaceful labor relations. The government could award priority rights for state projects and give tax cuts to the related companies.
We hope the companies receiving awards this year can spread their positive energy throughout the corporate community.