Concord neededThe government announced it will push forward labor reforms on its own after a tripartite committee representing unions, companies and the government passed the Sept. 10 deadline without a full agreement. The administration now plans to go through legal procedures for the reforms after consulting with the ruling Saenuri Party early next month. The government believes it can avoid legal problems as long as it upholds the results of discussions from the committee.
If the dialogue extends into 2016, the labor reforms will be impossible. Korea’s retirement age will be extended to 60 after three months, and jobless rates are still high for our young generation. Under such circumstances, companies will not hire more people than before. Meanwhile, the gap between salaried employees and nonsalaried part-time workers - as well as between large companies and small - is growing. In such a distorted labor market, social integration cannot be achieved.
We understand the government’s position to press ahead with the reforms. But it must not hurry. Only with successful labor reforms, can our supine economy be rejuvenated by strengthening its fundamentals. If the reforms are half-baked, it will make things worse.
The government also must take realistic barriers into account. Can the reform bills pass the National Assembly? The Environment and Labor Committee is dominated by the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, and the ruling Saenuri Party cannot railroad legislation on its own due to the National Assembly Advancement Law.
A grand consensus is needed as President Park Geun-hye stressed. But the grand bargain cannot be hammered out by labor and management alone. The government must show determination. For instance, the government’s call for eased regulations on employment and dismissals of underperforming workers failed to receive public support.
Public opinion favors the restructuring of our labor market, but it is dubious about government-led reforms. Yet the government threatens to set its own guidelines for hiring and firing. It must listen to advice from the chairman of the tripartite committee, Kim Dae-hwan, who underscored the need to reach an agreement among concerned parties.
The unions must discard their combative attitudes and the corporate sector must refrain from citing its mounting costs that result from government-driven reforms. The clock is ticking. We hope the three parties reach an agreement soon.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 12, Page 26