Waiting for labor and opposition
With the umbrella trade union threatening to walk away from the labor-reform agreement, President Park Geun-hye offered to leave out a contentious plan designed to improve rights for non-regular workers as a concession, hoping it would motivate the legislature to pass the remaining four labor reform bills.
Labor and the opposition party have been opposing two of the five bills relating to use of non-regular workers, arguing that the acts would make employers prefer non-regular workers and further aggravate conditions in the job market.
She instead said the bill concerning agency workers should be passed, as they are much needed at small companies and provide jobs for older people.
The two acts on non-regular and agency workers had not been included in the landmark deal reached by the labor, employers, and government in September.
The labor sector has been vehemently opposed to the act related to non-regular workers, which would extend their legal contract period for from two to four years, claiming that the extension is cruel and exploits the workers.
The president, who had stuck to the plan of passing all five bills, has finally relented in order to save the other bills.
Other legislation concerning the improvement of working conditions, insurance coverage for unemployment and occupational health and safety have been agreed upon by the tripartite committee. The only stumbling block is the act proposing to increase the use of agency workers at companies.
The balls are now in the courts of the opposition party and labor sector, which threatened to walk away from the deal and out of the tripartite framework and has not made a final decision. The main opposition on the brink of a breakup is beyond coming to a consensus. But that does not give it the excuse to delay the labor reform process. Strictly speaking, the reforms do not benefit the employers more than the workers.
The local economy is in troubled waters. The financial market and business sector have been hit hard by the U.S. rate hike and slowdown in the Chinese economy. Growth potential is sinking fast due to demographic factors. We cannot solve all the problems with labor reforms, but this can be a meaningful start. It is time for the labor and opposition to respond.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 14, Page 30