Umbrella unions don’t get it

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Umbrella unions don’t get it

South Korea’s two umbrella labor unions are set to re-establish a united front in a fight against government policies.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions, which had been a part of the government-sponsored commission to iron out labor differences, voted in a recent representative meeting to stage a general strike to protest the government’s move to allow more than one union at one workplace and not to provide regular wages to full-time union office workers.

It threatened to break its alliance with the ruling Grand National Party and instead join up with the more militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to fight the government if it pushes forward with the new policies.

The KCTU, which had been openly against the measure, undoubtedly welcomes the federation’s bellicose turn. It held an executive meeting to deliberate the possibility of joining forces with the moderate labor group.

By joining hands, the two unions could create an anti-government campaign and reignite divisive labor disputes, dealing a heavy blow to the fragile economic recovery.

To improve relations between the management and labor, benefits like single labor unions and wages to full-time labor union members should be abolished. Such benefits do not exist in advanced markets.

If the umbrella union groups fail to comply with the global standards, they cannot escape being criticized as being collectively selfish and ignoring the public good.

A recent survey by the Federation of Korean Industries showed that about 31 percent of the public named improved labor-management relations as a central issue to resolve in order for the country to ascend to the ranks of advanced nations.

The umbrella union groups will be pushing the economy as well themselves to the edge of a cliff if they turn their backs to public wishes and resort to walkouts.

Our global ranking in competitiveness assessed by international bodies like the World Bank has one thing in common. We are at the bottom in labor relations.

In order words, our competitiveness can grow if labor strife is tamed.

A stronger economy and market translates into more returns for the employers as well as employees.

If the union really has its members’ interests at heart, it should strongly consider supporting instead of outright opposing the government policies. Union leaders should get together to discuss ways to enhance productivity and create a better work environment instead of plotting protest strategies.
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