Business groups collect funds for union members

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Business groups collect funds for union members

With many unions still confronting management over a new regulation banning wage provisions for full-time union representatives, business lobbyist groups turned out to be collecting more than 10 billion won ($8.5 million) since last month to make up the loss for union leaders.

The burgeoning fund is only meant for union leaders belonging to a conservative umbrella union group and is triggering cries of foul play from the other umbrella group, which suspects a political motive behind it.

Sources within business lobbyist groups and some large companies told JoongAng Ilbo that the Federation of Korean Industries, the country’s biggest business lobbyist body, has been collecting around 3.7 billion won in a special fund from Samsung Group, Hyundai Motor and some other large companies since the middle of last month.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Korea Employers Federation, other major business lobbyists, have collected funds, worth 1.15 billion won and 3.8 billion won respectively, from some of their member companies during the same period, the sources said.

“The Federation of Korean Trade Unions requested us to assist with 13.5 billion won, equivalent to two years’ salary for 127 of its full-time labor leaders dispatched to companies,” said an official of a business lobbyist group, requesting anonymity. “That prompted us to deliver funds in the name of the major business lobbyist groups.”

Under the so-called time-off system, the government has implemented a long-protracted ban on wage payments to full-time union leaders with some exceptions allowed since July 1. The system limits the number of full-time union representatives on the company’s payroll up to 24 depending on the size of the unions.

According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, 70.3 percent of the labor unions at companies with at least 100 workers accepted the time-off systems as of late last month.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions, closer to business than the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, has 78.4 percent of its members following the time-off system, while 50.8 percent of the confederation-associated unions have accepted it.

“It is an unfair act intended to foster the federation and exclude the confederation,” said an official of the confederation, speaking of the funds.

Management also strongly resists.

“It doesn’t make sense that business groups that are supposed to represent companies are paying salaries to full-time workers,” said an official of a large company.

By Kim Ki-chan, Moon Gwang-lip []

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