Time for some dialogueA growing war of words between the government and business lobbying groups is taking a dangerous turn. The friction over President Moon Jae-in’s key economic agenda — in particular creating more jobs in the public sector and helping small and midsize companies — has come out in the open after Kim Young-bae, vice chairman of the Korea Employers’ Federation (KEF), said at a recent forum that local companies are having trouble running their businesses due to a growing demand for them to upgrade contract workers to salaried employees on permanent payroll.
Moon took that as an attack on his economic agenda and criticized the KEF for contributing to income inequalities in our society. Kim Jin-pyo, chairman of an advisory committee for state affairs planning, which served as a transitional team for Moon after the May 9 snap election, jumped on the bandwagon by saying that business owners should feel the pressure.
The problem is the lack of any constructive dialogue between the liberal government and the corporate sector. To tackle deep-rooted income imbalances, all the parties involved — business owners, employees and the government — must come together.
The corporate sector’s silence cannot help the search for realistic solutions. After a consultative body for the KEF released a report Thursday describing its members’ opinions of the economic agenda of the new government, much backpeddling was seen and heard. Earlier, the KEF withdrew a plan to distribute a booklet entitled “The Misunderstanding and Truth behind Our Irregular Workforce.”
In the meantime, our workplaces have been thrown into confusion. For instance, 75 former and current workers for Coupang, one of Korea’s largest online shopping companies, submitted petitions to Moon about their allegedly unfair dismissals from the company. Though Coupang explained that it has suffered huge losses, the conflict is intensified by the government’s push to have contract workers upgraded. After SK Broadband tried to improve the status of its internet installation technicians, over 100 contractors sued the company for the effect on them.
Jobs cannot be created by a government-led reform drive. A presidential committee for job creation Thursday announced a 100-day plan to create allowances for youths seeking jobs, raise our current minimum wage to 10,000 won ($9), reduce weekly work hours to 52 and remove regulations for new industries. The government must talk with companies so they can express their positions.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 2, Page 34