KTU not exempt from lawThe Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) has been stripped of its legal status 14 years since it obtained it. The Seoul Administrative Court yesterday dismissed the KTU’s request to nullify the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s order to place the union outside of legal protection.
As a result, the union will lose all the privileges it has been enjoying unless it kicks out nine teachers who were suspended from their job after receiving a criminal verdict and sets up a new union. Education offices across the country also don’t have to enter a collective bargaining with the union or pay rental fees on its behalf anymore. Union members must vacate their offices immediately, and 72 teachers who left their positions to conduct administrative work for the union must return to their schools by July 3.
The KTU’s internal decree, which accepts fired teachers as union members, has clearly violated Article 2 of the current teachers’ union law. The article says that if a labor union admits inactive teachers, it disqualifies as a union. Based on the article, the Ministry of Employment and Labor has repeatedly ordered the union to correct the decree if it wants to maintain its legitimate status.
It is not appropriate for the KTU to denounce the court’s decision by declaring that the ruling constitutes labor repression and that the judicial branch has become a slave of the executive branch. But the judiciary executes rather than enforces laws. Any organization must respect the judgment of the court, and the union is no exception.
We hope the KTU respects the ruling and sends its inactive teachers back to schools. The 13 pro-KTU school superintendents who were elected in the June 4 local elections also must act wisely. If they still treat the union as a “voluntary association,” it can hardly be stopped. But that can cause trouble if they continue to offer costs for maintaining KTU’s offices or determine education policies in partnership with the union even after it has lost its legal status. If the liberal-minded superintendents opt to fight with the government after the ruling, it will affect students across the country.
The core issue in the ruling was whether our teachers’ union law violates the rights of collective organizations. The National Human Rights Commission and the International Labor Organization advised that union memberships should be determined by unions themselves, not by the law.
Our government needs to discuss whether it is appropriate to stick to an overly strict clause on union membership. No doubt the judicial decision must be upheld. But at the same time, the government needs to mend some clauses that do not correspond with international standards. We expect to see its follow-up measures.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 20, Page 30