Stay out of labor disputes

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Stay out of labor disputes

The legislative branch of the government is different from the executive branch. The National Assembly has a duty to scrutinize the feasibility and effects of the executive branch’s policies as well as to hold the administration accountable for the mistakes it makes. In other words, the legislature should not play the role of the government. But the National Assembly increasingly crosses the line by directly intervening in labor disputes at individual companies. We are very worried about this development in the legislature.

It turns out that a number of lawmakers have personally met CEOs of private enterprises to urge them to improve working conditions for their employees and called for labor inspections by the Ministry of Employment and Labor to keep a close watch on them. NH Information System is a case in point. The information technology company affiliated with Nonghyup Bank had already been ordered by the ministry to fix the problem of overly long working hours. But lawmakers personally visited the CEO’s office to demand better working conditions for workers and pressured the Ministry of Employment and Labor to conduct a labor inspection once again.

In other cases - like when the government lifts a ban on the construction of plants for industrial safety issues - the legislators even demanded the ministry seek their approval in advance before lifting a ban. Such demands exceed their authority as lawmakers.

Of course, we understand the sentiments of the representatives: They are trying to ease the pain of the weak and protect their rights as workers. But when good will goes beyond the permissible level, it only backfires. The criticism over the unfettered power - and overly hefty privileges - of our lawmakers has been simmering over the years. Some pundits have even called them the “superpower holders,” which now applies to their aides and secretaries as well. If the representatives of the people meddle in the labor problems of the corporate sector, the adverse effects are crystal clear.

The principle of autonomous settlement for problems between labor and management will be violated first. Needless to say, labor unions will no doubt knock on lawmakers’ doors to request that they fix their labor problems whenever the need arises. The labor sector has recently stepped up efforts to consolidate ties with the National Assembly in an alarming manner. But that will only lead to a collapse of trust in the labor-management relationship. The legislature must refrain from directly intervening in labor disputes.

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