Moon’s job pledge spreads hope

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Moon’s job pledge spreads hope

The Korea University Workers’ Union chapter at Seoul National University started a strike Monday demanding longer or unlimited contracts. The chapter represents 130 contract teaching assistants and research assistants.

They are not demanding full time positions, but believe longer contracts will offer more stability.

On the same day, street cleaners at the Sejong Center in central Seoul held a press conference near the Blue House to ask for full time positions. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions announced last week that mailman and phone operators working in the public sector need to be made full time, salaried employees.

Call it the butterfly effect. President Moon Jae-in said he will put all employees working in the public sector in salaried positions on a visit to contract workers at Incheon International Airport last week.

Workers in the public sector expect him to follow through on that pledge.

According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance Tuesday, 332 public institutions directly hired 36,000 contract workers and another 82,000 seconded workers last year alone.

But how they can all go on salaries is not at all clear.

The Korean Horse Affairs Association, which has the largest number of contract workers among private institutions, can’t decide how to deal with part time workers that issue tickets. The problem is that those jobs are anything but full-time.

“We agree with the policy but racecourses are only open on weekends so we are discussing how to deal with this issue,” said an official at the association.

Cost is the usual problem, of course. The average cost of a full time worker at a public institution is 68 million won ($60,725) per year, which is more than 200 percent higher than Korea’s per capita GDP, which is 31 million won.

At this point, it will cost the government about 1.2 trillion won per year to upgrade all contract workers to salaried positions, which would involve raises in salary of 10 million won per employee. If the government forces every institution to upgrade all contract workers to salaried positions, they are likely to cut down the number of people they hire each year.

“The government needs to come up with plans by reviewing and analyzing working conditions and workloads at each public institution ahead of time,” said Cho Joon-mo, an economics professor at Sungkyunkwan University.

Unions also need to step back a bit. In fact, Moon said workers shouldn’t try to achieve everything all at once on his visit to Incheon International Airport last week.

“Current full time workers should share some pain such as taking wage cuts,” said Kim Young-bae, vice chairperson of the Korea Employers Federation. “The full time worker issue should proceed with reforms in the public sector at the same time.”

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