Labor group rejoins wage talks

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Labor group rejoins wage talks

The discussion over setting next year’s minimum wage is expected to escalate as members of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions are expected to return to the negotiation table.

The umbrella labor union, one of the two largest in the country, said Wednesday it has decided to return to the committee that will decide next year’s minimum wage on Thursday. The union is returning 11 months after talks broke down.

The KCTU said in a statement that the Moon Jae-in government and the ruling Democratic Party have shown “responsible” actions by pushing for reforming the system and setting a goal of a new minimum wage passing the National Assembly in the second half.

With the return of the KCTU, all nine members from the labor unions on the committee are represented. The representatives from the unions said they exited talks in July after the government and business representatives on the committee pushed an agenda to raise the minimum wage 7 percent that year to 6,470 won ($5.75) per hour. The union has demanded it be raised to 10,000 won.

Since April, there have been two discussions on next year’s minimum wage but they didn’t include members of the labor union. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions decided recently to participate in Thursday’s meeting.

During the presidential race, the Moon administration promised to raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won per hour by 2020.

Raising the minimum wage has been part of a plan by the Moon administration to secure better conditions for employees, especially those working under harsher conditions.

His plan also includes upgrading contract workers or irregular workers who have fewer benefits than regular workers, including wages. The new government has stressed an economic growth strategy where higher income will be the leading force.

The labor representatives and the ruling party also have agreed to discuss the cost of living as one of the core standards in setting the minimum wage and reforming legislation on penalties for businesses and owners that violate it.

However, the business community has protested the government’s push for higher wages and converting contract workers to regular workers, saying not only will the move add financial burdens, particularly for small and midsize businesses, but it also will harm the nation’s labor flexibility.

“Some of the small business owners, like those that run restaurants, said if the government raises the minimum wage, they would be force to lay off some of their employees to save costs from rising,” said a financial industry official.


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]



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