Finding common groundPresident Moon Jae-in met with leaders of the country’s two major umbrella labor unions Friday — the Federation of Korea Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). In his New Year’s address, he called for the normalization of a tripartite consultancy channel among the government, labor and management for social harmony. The militant KCTU that has boycotted the tripartite meeting for the last two decades attended the Blue House-sponsored meeting. The KCTU leadership did not meet the president under the past two conservative governments. KCTU returning to the tripartite body raises hopes for more stability and progress on the labor front.
The Moon Jae-in government needs support from the labor front to fulfill its labor agenda such as higher minimum wages and reduced work hours. That’s why the administration has been working hard to win the hearts of workers even under criticism for its labor-friendly policies. The labor front, however, has not been that cooperative.
But a social consensus cannot take place without commitment from employers. The business community is disgruntled that all the government does is mount extra pressure on employers. The Blue House did not invite the head of an association for small merchants to the tripartite meeting on Jan. 19 with small and mid-sized businessmen. Merchants accuse the Blue House of trying to ignore the negative voices on the hike in the minimum wage. That’s not all. There is criticism against the government’s measures of forcing large companies to raise contract fees for suppliers to ease the latter’s burden from higher labor costs from a spike in their employees’ wage floor.
In his New Year’s address, President Moon underscored that labor agendas cannot be pursued without cooperation and support from all economic players. But such cooperation is not possible if the management’s interests are ignored. The government must be balanced by paying equal heed to the demands of the business sector. The KCTU will be attending the tripartite meeting due later this month. We hope the tripartite meeting can set the grounds for smooth labor relations.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 20, Page 26