Saenuri Party pinpoints changes for labor laws

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Saenuri Party pinpoints changes for labor laws

The ruling Saenuri Party agreed Wednesday on a policy to revise five labor-related laws, which is guaranteed to bring the ruling party and opposition into a clash on how labor reforms should proceed.

In a general meeting, the Saenuri Party decided to adopt a labor reform platform signed by 159 lawmakers, calling for the “advancement of the labor market.”

It includes revisions to the labor standard act, employment insurance act, industrial accident compensation insurance act, act on the protection of fixed-term and part-time employees, and act on the protection of dispatched workers.

The key changes in these laws would include decreasing labor hours, extending the duration of and the amount of unemployment benefits, and recognizing accidents that happen on commutes to and from work for compensation starting from 2017.

Other reforms include extending employment of non-regular workers to up to four years and utilizing more dispatched workers.

But the ruling party’s proposals are being countered by the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), which says some of them may actually foil efforts to create stable, regular jobs.

The Saenuri Party supports increasing the hiring periods for temporary workers over the age of 35, who have a low chance of finding salaried positions, from a maximum of two years to a maximum of four. The NPAD opposes this proposal because it fears it will simply increase the number of temporary workers.

The Saenuri Party also wants to ease a shortage of workers in certain manufacturing industries, such as in welding or molding, by extending the kind of jobs given to workers dispatched or seconded from suppliers or other partner companies. The opposition again fears this will increase the number of temporary jobs and allow big companies not to put workers on their regular payrolls.

“In the case of the manufacturing industry, there is an extreme shortage of workers, so even within the industry, there has been a lot of requests to enable dispatched workers,” said Saenuri Rep. Kweon Seong-dong.

NPAD Rep. Lee In-young countered, “This could lead to the creation of jobs that are low-quality and unstable.”

The most controversy may lie in the protection of dispatched workers act. The ruling party is calling for expanding opportunities for employment after retirement, enabling dispatching of senior field experts. This could include those who are over 55 years old and are in the top 25 percent income bracket.

Again, the NPAD believes this will reduce the number of salaried positions, especially in finance or public organizations.

The NPAD is calling for a separate parliamentary special committee to handle labor reform policy and generate more discussion. The Saenuri Party contends there has been enough discussion already.

“[The Saenuri Party] said it will comply with the tripartite committee agreement and discuss legislative amendments seriously,” NPAD floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul said, “but ignoring preexisting laws and unilaterally reforming the labor market is against human rights and cannot be accepted.”

BY SARAH KIM, KIM KYUNG-HEE [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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