New law allows multiple unions in companies

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New law allows multiple unions in companies

Despite a 13-year effort to stop a new labor law that allows multiple labor unions at a company, the law will take effect on Friday.

According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, workers will now be able to establish multiple labor unions within one workplace.

During the Park Chung Hee administration, a law was passed in 1963 that banned more than one labor union in a company.

In 1997, however, an agreement was reached between the ruling and opposition parties in which the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act was amended, allowing multiple labor unions. But its enforcement was blocked.

Observers have said that multiple labor unions will help Korea improve its image abroad as an “advanced country for labor” by guaranteeing freedom of establishing labor unions.

Labor activists have insisted that multiple labor unions at a company would create an atmosphere of healthy competition among labor unions. In addition, multiple unions would allow a diversity of views of workers and prevent one union from dominating a company.

However, Grand National Party lawmakers, who recently tried to pass a bill to abolish the new law, say multiple labor unions would foster an unstable relationship between labor and management.

The new law requires that one bargaining representative union be selected by the multiple labor unions in each company for efficiency purposes. The representative union will be in charge of collective bargaining with the respective company. If the unions can’t agree on a representative union, the union with the most members would become the representative union.

Moreover, each labor union is allowed to have its own rules and regulations such as prohibiting members from joining more than one union.

Recently, businesses in Korea have seen a transformation in labor-management relationships. In the mid-2000s, the number of labor disputes, which had reached 300 to 400 a year, dropped to less than 100.

Opponents say the new law will cause confusion in the workplace.


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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