Taming the umbrella union’s dominancePeople are losing patience with the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Complaints and pleas have poured in after the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) embarked on a punitive review on the Busan construction and machinery faction of the KCTU. It turned out that workplaces, mostly construction sites, have been marred by the domineering ways of KCTU members. As a result, employers and workers have been abused.
Workers who did not join the KCTU or collective actions of unions often lost their jobs. Builders are pressured to use the construction equipment KCTU members use. The construction site could be disrupted by unionists if it did not comply. The umbrella union has become fearless. Its members raided streets and roads across the nation to hold rallies despite the spread of Covid-19. A delivery union aligned with the KCTU occupied the headquarters of CJ Logistics for 19 days in February.
The prosecution and the Ministry of Employment and Labor keep to the sidelines. They refuse to use law enforcement even when production sites are illegally occupied by unionists. The government does not issue a disband order to the rioters, even if Covid-19 social distancing rules require it. It does not even attempt to mediate between labor and management.
The law enforcement has lost its authority in the face of the mighty union group. The excesses of the KCTU are too many to list. From the illegal occupation of Hyundai Steel to the SPC headquarters, forced intrusion had become the KCTU’s trademark.
The police merely advise protests disband, while the labor ministry’s role is nonexistent. Workers and employers inevitably had to turn to the antitrust agency. The FTC, however, cannot fundamentally correct the KCTU’s abuses. The umbrella union would have violated the antitrust law if it had demanded the hiring of its members and their equipment. But fines cannot correct its actions. The KCTU has come to dominate worksites through illegal raids and force.
Labor power will grow since three key International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions went into effect this week. The union has the right to strike unless it is for outright political purpose. Under the freedom of association and ban on forced labor, dismissed workers can join unions and any type of forced labor is prohibited. Employers have asked for the right to hire replacement workers amid increased strike possibilities, but were denied. Since a ban on worksite occupation is restricted to manufacturing facilities, employers cannot prevent laid-off workers from entering workplaces. Labor reform is a must for the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration. There is no future for the Korean economy if the KCTU’s bulldozing ways cannot be stopped.