Moon talks unity at panel launch

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Moon talks unity at panel launch

President Moon Jae-in said that Korea should be a country in which workers, their employers and the government all cooperate with one other in a ceremony at the Blue House on Thursday to launch a presidential advisory panel on labor issues.

Moon said it was his “firm stance” that made the labor and management circles “partners of government administration.” Moon added that he will make sure the newly-established Economic, Social and Labor Council (ESLC) prioritizes free communication between the workforce and businesses as it chooses its agenda items and hammers out decisions.

The government, Moon continued, will focus on narrowing the gap of opinions between the two sides as a “fair mediator.”

Moon’s remarks came before he attended the first meeting of the ESLC with the council’s 17-member plenary committee, held later on Thursday at the Blue House. The ESLC will replace a tripartite commission of the labor, management and government. It adds onto its plenary committee representatives of youth, women, part-time workers, small-to-medium sized companies and small enterprises and market workers.

The launch of the advisory council had been delayed for weeks after the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country’s two largest labor unions, boycotted council activities. The ESLC plenary committee was supposed to launch with 18 members, but it went ahead with one member short due to the KCTU boycott. The council said it will continue internal discussions on the KCTU’s participation.

In Thursday’s first meeting, the ESLC agreed to form a sub-committee on the government’s contentious flexible working hour policy and negotiate on it further with the National Assembly.

The policy deepened the schism between the Moon administration and KCTU. The Blue House chief agreed with the floor leaders of five political parties earlier this month to give leeway to companies to increase or decrease their maximum working hours depending on the amount of work for up to six months.

The change is intended to add flexibility to the current system, which allows companies to adjust their maximum working hours for up to three months. The Blue House and Assembly leaders agreed to pass legislation on the change by the end of the year.

But the KCTU fumed at the decision, saying the change would harm working conditions.

Moon urged the KCTU to participate in the presidential labor council on Thursday, saying that it was important to search for a solution through dialogue. Without specifically pointing to the KCTU, Moon underscored the importance of dialogue, compromise and concessions, and denounced “waging a fight to attain one’s demand.”

Other subcommittees under the ESLC will discuss reform measures to the national pension system and the creation of new jobs in the finance sector. Separate subcommittees focusing on youth, women and part-time workers are planned for the future, the advisory group said.

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