Analysis details perks of public company jobs

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Analysis details perks of public company jobs

Public company employment has always been called the “job of gods,” offering far better benefits than private companies and indestructible job security.

An analysis by the JoongAng Ilbo of labor negotiations at public companies shows the benefits received by employees were far larger than what many people believed.

Some of the changes negotiated by public companies’ unions include a ban on pay cuts, a full year’s leave with pay for employees who have worked for more than 10 years, job opportunities for family members of employees who died on the job or were forced to retire due to physical or mental disabilities, and no corporate restructuring unless approved by the union.

These are only few examples the JoongAng Ilbo obtained from 295 public companies through the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The 353 pages of data from the Finance Ministry show that 40 percent, or 117 public companies, are considered to be violating government management guidelines.

Some public institutions, as a result of union negotiations, offer housing loans at 1 percent interest, far below the market rate, and unlimited financial support for college tuition and fees for the children of employees.

Also, some public institutions violated labor laws. In 2010, lawmakers passed a revised bill that allowed the establishment of more than one labor union in a workplace. The revised regulation took effect in July 2011.

Yet some public institutions will only allow a single labor union represent their employees.

Several institutions guarantee preferential treatment for former labor representatives.

During a national hearing last month, Kangwon Land casino was found to be rife with corruption, with overseas gambling by employees and sexual assaults.

Yet, under the agreement with its labor union, retired employees’ family members are given priority in hiring, and Kangwon offers its employees housing loans at 1 percent interest, and full college tuition and fees for their children.

The Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources has great negotiated benefits as well. In order to change the work status of an employee, management must obtain union approval.

Additionally, it cannot cut down on the number of its employees as a mean of normalizing the institution. If the situation is inevitable then it has to negotiate with union representatives and readjust the number of people that are let go.

Negotiated wage increases must reflect inflation as well as actual economic growth, while management is not allowed to lower wages under any circumstances. Despite a labor law permitting the establishment of a second union in the workplace, the institution’s labor union does not allow it.

Benefits negotiated by unions at national hospitals that are categorized as public institutions are equally excessive, according to the government.

Employees of Seoul National University get selected medical treatments free, an 80 percent discount for treatments on insurance, and a 40 percent discount on non-insurance treatments.

Even if they go on a leave of absence, the same benefits applies.

In the case of Chungnam National University Hospital, family members of employees get priority when applying for jobs. Also, union representation is required on hospital committees.

At Chungbuk National University Hospital, labor unions can make three nominations for model employee awards.

Korea Postal Logistic Agency management must negotiate with the union before authorizing a labor lockout.

Korea Asset Management Corp., when making personnel decisions involving high-level union members, must receive union approval. Additionally, the state-run asset manager has to guarantee a leave of absence with pay and a special retirement payment for high-ranking union members.

It has been found that many CEOs of public institutions tend to give in to union demands, because they are not company owners but are appointed for a limited time, said an official at the Finance Ministry.

Lee No-keun, a Saenuri Party lawmaker, took issue with such agreements. “There are growing public concerns about such institutions as the overall debt of state-run agencies amounts to 493.4 trillion won [$463.2 billion] as of end of 2012,” said Lee. “Yet, public company employees are not only getting the best rewards, they are also further fortifying their job security.”

The biggest problem, however, is that although there is a guideline, there is no legal basis for the government to enforce it.

This is particularly so that employees working at public companies are not considered public servants.

The Suwon court in January 2012 ruled that people working at public institutions are not subject to national public servant regulations. Additionally, the guideline presented by the government is just a standard in setting budgets and therefore cannot alter existing labor-management negotiations or employment policies.

BY CHOI JOON-HO [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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