Moderation in labor relations

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Moderation in labor relations

As the country’s two umbrella unions stand poised to fight the government’s new labor regulations, a union leader of one of the largest industrial workplaces in the nation spoke out against the outdated tradition of full-time union officials receiving paychecks from management.

“Full-time union officials must cut themselves off of the corporate payroll to enhance union independence and responsibility,” said Oh Jong-soae, head of Hyundai Heavy Industries’ union. He may be suggesting that the company’s grip on union members’ wages has influenced labor activities.

Oh also expressed support for a controversial government initiative to allow more than one union to operate in a single workplace.

Having more than one union in a company may not be a problem as long as management does not insist on going through a single bargaining channel, he said.

That comment may cause trouble in the labor community because that is one of the things the umbrella unions are planning to protest against.

We have repeatedly called for practical moderation and alignment with global standards in labor regulations to ensure progressive labor-management ties and a competitive labor force.

Oh has chosen a practical approach for the union’s future, and he is unlikely to be alone in his efforts.

But a survey by the Labor Ministry in August suggests that many unionized workers are harboring opinions that are different from those of their labor union executives. In a survey of 2,000 workers at industrial workplaces with more than 50 employees, a mere 8.7 percent of respondents said that companies should pay full-time union officials.

The two umbrella union groups are crying out for a benefit many of their members are questioning.

In order to end the unproductive and antagonistic relations between labor and management, we need to do away with the financial ties between them.

The International Labor Organization allows multiple labor unions to operate in one company, but that kind of system remains unrealistic given the labor and management climate here.

The Labor Ministry will soon hold a public forum on the issue.

We hope to see a productive discussion in which methods of implementing the new labor regulations can be found.
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