Change you can believe inThe labor organization covering employees at Hyundai Heavy Industries announced that it plans to become the first union at a major company to voluntarily cut the number of full-time workers by a third. The union made the independent decision in an effort to reduce the burden on union members caused by revisions to a labor-related law that limits the salary of full-time union workers, which took effect this year.
Hyundai Heavy’s labor union has already cut down its budget and structure this year, and it is looking for ways to help the company increase profits. It is clear that the labor union is prioritizing improving its members’ rights and interests ahead of engaging in protracted battles against management.
LG Electronics’ labor organization took this concept a step further by resolving to strengthen the social responsibility of the union. It held a social responsibility charter proclamation ceremony on Jan. 28, announcing it would sharpen its focus on protecting the ecosystem and the lower end of society as well as improving the transparency of its operations and spurring innovations. It has therefore not only put the rights and interests of its members at the forefront, but it has also developed a new goal of conducting union activities to benefit the public interest.
These developments show that an important paradigm change is occurring in the realm of Korean labor movements. Unions that have often focused on putting up tough fights against management in the past are now moving toward the true role of a labor organization: improving working conditions for members and strengthening the relationship between employees and management.
The shift is related to the decline of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Last year, the labor unions of Incheon Subway, Ssangyong Motor and KT left the confederation because they opposed its methods. Additionally, Hyundai Motor’s labor union reached an agreement with the company’s management without initiating a strike.
The new labor law that took effect this year is expected to further accelerate the change. The prohibition of salaries to full-time union workers has created conditions that make it difficult for employee organizations to reach their goals through extreme strikes and bold methods. In addition, it appears as if the rule that permits multiple labor unions within the same company will stimulate competition between unions.
This type of competition will improve the environment for union members and create a win-win relationship between labor and management. These recent examples show us that the change is already underway.