The KCTU must stop its strikes

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The KCTU must stop its strikes

The government warned the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) that it would clamp down on the organization’s nationwide strike, which kicks off today. The KCTU’s walkout has no cause and is plainly antigovernment. So even though the strike is part of workers’ rights, it must proceed in accordance with legal procedures.

The KCTU listed various complaints, better fit for an election campaign. It demands a thorough investigation into the Sewol ferry disaster, a withdrawal of the plan to reform the debt-stricken pension program for government employees and university restructuring, among others. The union announced it would go on strike as soon as it elected new leaders late last year. But it was clearly looking for reasons in order to strike. That raises questions over whether the umbrella union group is fit to represent the interests of workers.

Its strike is politically motivated and illegal. It cannot expect to draw support. No labor group can be above the law. The union’s leaders should know by now what kind of consequences this can have and how it could affect public support. The KCTU listed the Sewol ferry tragedy as one of the major reasons it was striking, but it should be ashamed to use human loss as a pretext for a walkout.

From the beginning, the militant union group was absent from the discussions between management and labor that were coordinated by the government for labor reform. Yet, when the tripartite talks failed to produce an outcome, the organization declared it would go on a general strike. The group vehemently resists labor reform although the majority of the public strongly demands it. Even Hyundai Motor’s labor union, the largest union group in the corporate sector, acknowledged that the KCTU was forcing a walkout without a proper rationale. No doubt that raises serious questions over whether the strike was determined through a reasonable and democratic process.

It’s not too late to stop the strike. The KCTU must relinquish its political agenda and instead focus on the overall welfare of its workers. The government also must endeavor to talk and persuade the union to end its walkout. Collective labor actions should be accompanied with social responsibility. The government must also strictly restrict government employees and teachers from participating in this unauthorized strike. Reforms to the pension program for government workers, as well as other issues, should be discussed among the concerned parties - not fought over through mostly violent means.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 24, Page 30

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