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Gov`t Workers Union to Be Legally Launched Next Year

Posted May. 20, 2003 22:21,   


The Ministry of Labor drafted a bill allowing government workers to lawfully organize a labor union with some limitations on the labor activities they can engage in. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and its affiliate labor union of government workers, currently not authorized by the government, refuse to accept the bill, are threatening to walk off the job. In response, the government is posturing with the possibility of disciplinary hearings.

Government bill

The Ministry of Labor announced a draft of the bill called the "Act on Establishment and Operation of the Government Workers` Union" yesterday. It plans to hold public hearings and come up with the final version by July and as early as August, it intends to introduce the bill to the National Assembly.

If passed as planned, the Act will take effect in early 2004. To begin with, the Labor Ministry planned to allow government workers to undertake labor activities as of 2006, thus reducing the timetable by two years.

According the bill, almost all labor rights are guaranteed to government workers. The National Assembly however, may limit the scope of collective bargaining when the issue under consideration involves modification of laws or cuts in the national budget. In addition, they are prohibited from strikes. The draft in essence, provides them with rights similar to those granted to the Korean Teachers` and Educational Workers` Union.

The Ministry of Labor is also restricting eligibility for certain government workers to become unionists. On the other hand, it allows for a multiple number of unions. They, however, must form a single delegation when the time comes for collective bargaining.

Opposition from Labor v. Government response

The KCTU made public that its members would not accept the proposal and threatened to strike after the vote, which is scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MGAHA) held an emergency meeting yesterday, and announced that anyone who would encourage participation in the vote or the strike would have to attend a disciplinary hearing. The MGAHA reportedly refuses to allow any worker the day off to vote on this.

Meanwhile, the unauthorized union of government workers is reviewing various ways to push ahead with their plan to go on strike. Its union members most likely will file a leave of absence as they did last November. As to the last strike, the government disciplined 506 workers, including one dismissal.

Kyung-Joon Chung Hyun-Doo Lee news91@donga.com ruchi@donga.com