Ministry prepares for labor bill delay

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Ministry prepares for labor bill delay

The Labor Ministry issued policies yesterday to govern labor-management relations in the event the National Assembly does not pass a bill that implements a new labor agreement.

According to the policies issued yesterday, when multiple labor unions at a single company request labor-management negotiations for the first time, management can post a notice and ask the unions to form single channel for talks.

If labor unions agree to a single negotiation channel, labor-management talks can begin. But if the unions fail to agree on who should negotiate, the union with the most members earns the sole right for negotiation. Alternatively, if unions fail to agree on a single channel, the company has the right to reject talks, according to the ministry’s notice.

The revision bill before the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee reflects an agreement reached earlier this year between the nation’s business lobby and an umbrella union to introduce multiple unions in a single workplace while banning companies from paying wages to full-time union representatives.

Opposition and ruling parties have been wrestling over the revision bill to complete passage by the end of the year. The two sides had a series of meetings to narrow difference, and sat down again last night for talks at the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee chaired by a Democratic Party lawmaker Choo Mi-ae. The results of the negotiation were not available at press time.

The ministry set out exceptions in yesterday’s policy. If more than two unions are launched at a company that never had a labor union before or if a new labor union was established after a collective bargaining agreement with labor and management expires, the company ask the unions to create a single channel for talks.

But if the unions fail to agree on a channel, the ministry policy grants each union the right to negotiate separately.

Also according to the policy, full-time union officials will be considered as taking unpaid leave from the company, meaning the company doesn’t have to pay them. This also exempts issues concerning payment for full-time union officials from labor-management talks.

Both the agreement reached earlier this year and yesterday’s policy are delayed six months for unions with less than 300 members whereas unions with over 300 members will be impacted in January 2010.


By Kim Ki-chan, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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