The road to ruin

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The road to ruin

World’s most opulent and aristocratic labor unions are heading to self-destruction. The union of Korean financial companies on Wednesday voted for a general strike on Sept. 23 with 95.7 percent of its members supporting the walkout. They took the action to oppose the introduction of a new wage system based on a maximum 40 percent gap in salary for employees in same ranks depending on their job performance.

The militant Hyundai Motor union also staged a partial strike Wednesday calling for a wage increase and a right to reject the management’ decision to promote them to higher positions. They are determined to pressure the management to accept their demands through another partial strike on Friday. The union of the embattled Hyundai Heavy Industries also launched a walkout in solidarity with Samsung Heavy Industries to demand the right to refuse promotion, while the former is undergoing a massive restructuring after billions of dollars in deficit last year.

Ordinary citizens can hardly understand the strange phenomenon of unionized workers refusing their promotion and a salary system based on performance. But that is what’s happening in the luxurious unions of our top 1 percent financial companies and conglomerates.

Performance-based wage systems were proposed as a part of wage reform for our struggling banks to survive. Due to the rapid digitalization of the financial sector in a huge wave of the fourth industrial revolution, financial industries need urgent restructuring following insolvent shipbuilding and shipping industries. Under such dire circumstances, companies’ rewarding systems must be revamped, as seen in the full-fledged introduction of performance-based salary system in the public sector.

Hyundai union’s call for members’ right to reject their promotion is a farcical comedy. They only want to enjoy their hefty annual salary — 96 million won ($84,137) on average — under the cover of the union. If employees are not promoted to the position of division head, the performance-based wage system is not applied. They don’t have to wrestle with more jobs, either.

In our polarized labor market, which is divided into regular employees and their non-regular counterparts at disadvange, the latter group can hardly change their status — all due to the exclusive and aristocratic unions. Considering the limitless competitions in our shipbuilding and car industries due to oversupply, our financial sector also cannot avoid collapse unless it changes.

Yet our top 1 percent unions are engrossed in protecting their own interest. When companies perish, their jobs vanish. We urge the unions not to make a mistake.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 21, Page 30
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