No time for a strike

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No time for a strike

Lee Young-sup, vice chairman of a presidential committee devoted to creating jobs, scorned the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions’ (KCTU) plan to holding a general strike on Friday. “This is no time for strikes. We should all help the president in his mission of creating jobs and reforming society,” he said. Although he avoided using a harsh tone against the union which supported the liberal president, he nevertheless sent a clear warning to the unions.

The right to assembly is a constitutional right, and every worker has a duty to protest to defend their basic rights. Civilians also should be supportive and understand their actions. But the KCTU plan must not have any justice and reason if it is not even approved by a pro-labor administration. The timing is, first of all, very bad. It falls on the day of the first summit between South Korean and U.S. leaders Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump who would have to address thorny issues over deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system and North Korean policy. Moon needs support from his own people, not protest.

KCTU remains stubbornly selfish and out of tune with the views of employers and liberal administration policy. The new government has made employers nervous with its bold and speedy agenda on converting irregular workers to permanent status, raising the minimum wage to 10,000 won ($8.80) and cutting work hours. Yet the KCTU complains the government has been too slow with its reform agenda.

Despite Moon’s call for patience, the umbrella group vows to go ahead with a general strike. GM Korea’s union is planning to join the walkout even while the automaker has had nearly 2 trillion won in losses over the last three years. Members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, which is now an outlawed organization, will be cutting their classes short to take part in the strike.

The KCTU is acting as if the Moon government is indebted to the union for its election triumph. The union group appears to think it could get away with anything because it has the backing of the president. But its action could only worsen the public view of the militant union group and jeopardize the labor policies of the new government.

The government lashed out at employers’ organizations for complaining about its labor plans. It should be able to talk equally sternly at labor groups for their heedless behavior. If it really believes it has a stake in the new government, it should pay heed to Lee’s words that the labor also should act differently from the past by yielding and showing unity so that the people will think the society has really changed under the new government.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 27, Page 30
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