Concession is key
The government and ruling party pushed reform of the labor sector. Rep. Rhee In-je, newly appointed to spearhead labor reform, said the party will come up with a complete roadmap for labor reform and submit it to the National Assembly in hopes of finalizing its legalization during the upcoming legislative session. The government plans to reopen tripartite committee talks, with representatives from employers and union groups that broke down in April, to draw consensus in September and announce a set of administrative guidelines.
We welcome the united endeavors from the ruling party and government to accelerate much-needed labor reforms. But reforms cannot be hastened unilaterally from one side. Labor reforms require painstaking concessions from workers through amendment to regulations in working conditions and dismissal terms. The two umbrella union groups immediately announced a joint general strike, which could be the first in 18 years. The main opposition also protested the government-led reform drive.
The reform in the pension system for one million government employees had not been satisfactory even after 15 months of negotiations due to strong protests. Reform in the area that could affect 50 million workers might face stronger resistance. The presidential office, government and ruling party must be united and resolute if they want to win this war. But so far, they’ve failed to form a concerted front. The ruling party rushed to establish a committee and seated Rhee without seeking his approval first. Rhee immediately expressed his discontent and refused to attend a senior meeting. How the party can persuade union workers and opposition amid such internal discord raises concerns.
Reform in the labor sector can materialize when labor, employers and the government all make concessions. It would require highly skilled politicking. The president must spearhead it if she does not want to see labor reform finish as half-baked as the government employees’ pension reform. She must meet labor and employers’ representatives and persuade them. The opposition party also should come up with alternatives instead of knee-jerk opposition. JoongAng Ilbo, July 29, Page 30