Contract workers to get an upgrade

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Contract workers to get an upgrade

About 97,000 nonregular workers in the public sector may be upgraded from next year.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor announced yesterday a plan to renew the contracts of about 97,000 nonregular workers in the public sector from nonregular worker to “indefinite contract worker,” which is almost equivalent to being a full employee, according to the ministry.

The upgrades will give the employees more job security, increases in salaries and health benefits.

The ministry and the ruling Grand National Party held a joint conference yesterday and agreed to push ahead with the plan, an attempt to reduce the number of nonregular workers with lower pay and less job security in Korea.

An increasing number of contract, as opposed to salaried, workers has become a hot political issue in the country and the cause of public protests.

According to Statistics Korea, the number of nonregular workers in Korea reached 5.99 million as of August, accounting for 34.2 percent of the total workforce.

The ministry said the 97,000 workers who are subject to upgrades in their status are contract workers with more than two years experience in government offices, government affiliated organizations and public companies. They account for 28 percent of the nonregular workers in the public sector.

The administration and the ruling party officials said some more work needs to be done to sort out the types of jobs that can be upgraded to indefinite contract positions.

Lee Ju-young, chief policy maker of the GNP, said that indefinite contract workers are legally different from regular staff but the employment conditions will be very similar.

The ministry and the ruling party also came up with a measure to support nonregular workers who have been working for more than a year.

According to the ministry, welfare points worth 300,000 won ($260) - which can be used as cash - will be provided to about 86,000 contract workers who have been working in the public sector for more than a year, along with bonuses for about 80,000 contract workers. The ministry said it will start an assessment and management system to study the employment structure in each government organization.

Lee Chae-pil, employment and labor minister, said, “In order to resolve the issue of nonregular employment in our society, a measure was drawn up so that the situation in the public sector gets improved.”

The ministry and ruling party also announced a guideline to improve the working conditions of contract workers in the public sector to root out discrimination against them.

The guideline advises public sector entities, including public companies, to expand benefits and bonuses for nonregular workers. The ministry added that it will look into a policy of promotions being offered to existing contract employees before a public company recruits new employees.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions said it was disappointed the measures only covered people working for more than two years. It also said “the government should reflect on itself for its wrong policy of expanding nonregular workers in the public sector.”


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

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