Blue House snubbed by influential labor group

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Blue House snubbed by influential labor group

President Moon Jae-in invited leaders of the labor community, including officials from two umbrella unions, to the Blue House for a dinner on Tuesday, but was snubbed by a key guest.

The Blue House planned the dinner event as part of the president’s series of discussions with all major economic players, inviting 18 leaders from various unions. Kim Ju-young, head of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and Choi Jong-jin, acting president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, were among those invited.

The leadership of the confederation, however, released a statement in the morning and said its members won’t attend. The confederation, the more militant of the two umbrella unions, protested the Blue House’s invitation of industry union representatives without consulting with the confederation first. “It was an act that seriously infringed upon the organizational hierarchy and order,” the confederation said.

The confederation also said it decided to boycott the meeting because Moon Sung-hyun, head of the Economic and Social Development Commission, is also joining the event. The commission, formally named the Korea Tripartite Commission, is a presidential advisory organ that includes labor, business and government representatives.

“For months, we made demands for serious talks, but the Blue House and the government decided to hold a political show,” the confederation said, complaining about the arrangement for the event. Presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in the afternoon that it was unfortunate to see the confederation’s boycott. “Even if they won’t come, we will hold the event as scheduled with the labor leaders who are working quietly to improve working conditions across the country and advance our society,” Park said.

The Moon administration has vowed to treat the labor community as a major partner in state affairs. Moon named Moon Sung-hyun, former senior member of the confederation, to head the tripartite Economic and Social Development Commission. Labor Minister Kim Young-joo is a Democratic Party lawmaker who was a senior leader of the federation.

Resuming operation of the tripartite commission was one of the key tasks of the new administration, and Moon was expected to ask the two umbrella unions to return to the tripartite talks. The confederation’s boycott, however, derailed the plan.The confederation walked out of the commission in 1999 to protest the government’s business-friendly labor policy. The federation also withdrew from the commission in 2016 after the Park Geun-hye administration eased regulations on layoffs.

Ahead of the dinner, Moon was scheduled to have a dialogue with the leaderships of the two umbrella unions. The Blue House said only leaders of the federation will attend the talks, as well as top government officials including Labor Minister Kim and Blue House policy chief Jang Ha-sung. The Blue House originally invited 18 union leaders, and 11 promised their attendance.

Although affiliated with the confederation, Ahn Byung-ho, head of the Federation of Korea Movie Workers’ Union, still attended the event.

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