Abuse in the workplaceThe Ministry of Employment and Labor has announced it will keep a close watch on the way big companies treat their employees. The ministry’s decision came after Doosan Mottrol, a leading hydraulic components manufacturer, was found to have placed an employee’s desk against a wall after he refused to be laid off. The ministry also found that the vice chairman of Daelim Industrial, Lee Hae-wook, habitually used violence against his chauffeur.
After a public uproar over the corporate sector’s despicable behavior, the minister of employment and labor, Lee Ki-kweon, said the ministry has launched investigations of such malpractice in conglomerates to discover the truth. But questions linger over how far the government can go to effectively curb such abuse in the corporate world.
Doosan took a cruel action against its own employee by forcing him to work facing a wall. That’s an insult to humanity. The company did not give assignments to employees who refused to accept its recommendation for forced layoffs and gave them only 70 percent of their paychecks. Some companies went so far as to coerce employees to not leave their seats for more than 10 minutes, not to mention ordering them not to read books while sitting against the wall. That constitutes deprivation of the freedom to move. Nevertheless, a local labor committee reached the conclusion that the company’s treatment of its employees did not violate the law.
Vice Chairman Lee’s violence goes beyond the realm of any kind of human decency. He ordered his chauffeur to drive his car with side mirrors folded, threw water bottles at him and changed his chauffeur over 40 times a year. All of that signifies a serious personality disorder. The company even drew up working guidelines for employees to call for their blind obedience. However, at a recent general shareholders meeting held after such shameful practices were disclosed, a decision was made to further strengthen the vice chairman’s authority after senior board members left the company.
Our government is timid in its reaction to such widespread infringement of human rights in our workplaces, and systems to monitor and prevent them obviously do not work. Countless companies resort to such abominable practices to fire their employees at their discretion. This dark aspect of our labor market only fuels antibusiness sentiment among the public and hampers our economic advancement. The government must define such malpractices as a crime against humanity and root them out.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 30
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