Gov’t set to say if it will reassess minimum wageThe government will announce whether it will reconsider next year’s minimum wage increase today, and it is sure to face backlash whichever direction it takes.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor will hold a briefing at 11 a.m. to notify the public on whether it will accept a demand from representatives of employers to reassess next year’s increase to the minimum wage.
Originally, the ministry was expected to finalize its decision on Wednesday, but it later announced that it would make the matter public today through a briefing.
The government pushing back the announcement of the decision for two days indicates how cautiously it is approaching the matter.
The Minimum Wage Commission, which is composed of representatives selected by the government, labor and employers, decided on July 14 to push up the minimum wage next year by 10.9 percent to 8,350 won ($7.40), the second consecutive increase of over 10 percent. Representatives of employers, however, boycotted the vote on July 14.
The decision was met with strong protests, especially from the employers, who demanded that the government review and nullify the commission’s decision.
The Korea Employers Federation and Korea Federation of SMEs, organizations that represent the interests of employers and management, submitted formal requests to the government on July 23 and 26.
Last week, Kim Dong-yeon, the minister for economy and finance, said the government will carefully review the employer federation’s request.
“The government understands the demand from the Korea Employers Federation and Korea Federation of SMEs,” the finance minister said.
He added that the decision ultimately lies with the labor minister and that the government’s economic team will discuss the matter together.
Kim Young-joo, the labor minister, also said last week that the ministry will thoroughly review whether to reassess the wage increase.
Workers’ representatives are likely to strongly disapprove if the ministry takes the side of the employers.
The Federation of Korean Trade Unions, one of the country’s two umbrella labor unions, said in a statement on Wednesday that it would not accept it if the government agrees to the employers demands.
The federation said it was irresponsible of employers to demand reconsideration after sitting out of wage negotiations on July 14.
If the ministry decides to reconsider the increase, it will be the first time that the commission’s initial decision is retracted since the minimum wage law was introduced 30 years ago.
If it does decide to reassess the wage, the commission will reconvene and vote on next year’s increase again.
“We cannot say anything about the Labor Ministry’s stance until the decision is made official on Friday,” said a Labor Ministry official.
BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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