Park appeals for passage of 4 bills

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Park appeals for passage of 4 bills

President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday proposed a compromise to the labor community and opposition lawmakers to approve four out of five bills to overhaul the labor market while shelving a contentious plan concerning employers’ use of non-regular workers.

Park has pushed for structural reforms in the labor market to resolve the dire youth unemployment rate and boost economic growth.

After months of conflict and negotiations, companies, unions and the government finally agreed in September to improve flexibility in the country’s rigid labor market.

Five bills to revise concerned labor laws were outlined and submitted to the National Assembly, though progress has since been stalled with the main opposition party and the labor community protesting certain specifics.

While the legislative deadlock continued, the grand tripartite agreement faced a crisis earlier this week.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) declared Monday that the deals are off, because the government and the ruling party insisted on changes to which it had never agreed.

The union gave until Tuesday, however, to walk out of the tripartite committee.

“I appeal to the labor community to cooperate from a broader perspective to save this grand agreement, reached for the first time in 17 years, and help save the economy from hardship,” Park said.

“As the next best way to overcome the unemployment crisis, I am proposing that the labor community accept the revision to the act on the protection of dispatched workers, while delaying the revision to the act on the protection of fixed-term and part-time employees for a long-term review,” Park said in her address to the nation.

The speech was aired live Wednesday morning, followed by a question-and-answer session with the press.

The revision on the act concerning the protection of fixed-term and part-time employees is designed to allow companies to hire non-regular workers for up to four years.

Currently, companies must offer regular full-time contracts after two years of non-regular employment.

The revision on the act meant to protect dispatched workers is intended to expand the scope of the jobs offered to those workers

“The government and I want to resolve the situation the way the labor community wants,” the president said. “But we are in a global economic crisis now, and most people have tightened their belts.”

Park said Wednesday that the revision on the law concerning dispatched workers is intended to support small and midsize enterprises and to secure jobs for the older generation. She further asked the labor community to accept it, along with three other reform bills.

“I hope the labor community will make efforts for mutual survival so that four out of the five labor reform bills can be passed speedily,” Park said.

The compromise presented by Park will allow the ruling party more room to negotiate with opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly. It also allows the labor community to return to the September agreement.

On Wednesday, the main opposition Minjoo Party rejected Park’s request, with its chairman, Moon Jae-in, insisting that the two revisions would only lead to a massive increase of non-regular workers.

“Unless there is a solution to reduce the serious wage gap between regular and non-regular workers, we cannot agree with them,” Moon said. “It is unacceptable for her to bargain as if she will be reducing the price for one bill in return for the passage of another bill.”

Until now, the Minjoo Party had said that it was willing to pass three out of the five labor reform bills, while leaving behind the two contentious revisions.

The nation’s two major umbrella unions, including the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, also issued statements rejecting Park’s proposal, while the business community expressed support for her appeal.

“The president’s proposal has taken into account the urgency of labor market reform and the serious aftermath of the legislative deadlock,” the Korea Employers Federation said. “If the opposition parties do not accept this proposal, it is an indication that they have no intention to overhaul the labor market.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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