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Union Members Grow Skeptical about Political Propaganda

Posted June. 25, 2003 21:55,   


As union members increasingly grow skeptical about the way their leaders deal with labor issues, radical moves prevailing in the labor camp have started to wane.

Executive members of the Korea Confederation of Trade Union and the Federation of Korea Trade Union have put forward legal or institutional arrangements, instead of down-to-earth issues such as wages and working conditions, on the negotiating table, inviting criticism within its own camp.

The general public is also critical about the way unions make their case, further weakening ground for union leaders. “It seems that members criticize union leaders for choosing strikes over negotiations,” pointed out some experts.

▽Hyundai Workers Goes on Strike, Participation Low

The union at Hyundai Motor decided to go on a strike, with only 54.8% of the total 38,917 voting in favor. Going on a strike almost every year, this is the first time that only about a half give a go-ahead since it was formed in 1987.

˝We like the idea of having a five-day workweek system and abolishing discrimination against non-regular workers. But we do not want to wage a proxy war with the management, making ambiguous demands,˝ said a union member on June 25.

˝There are many out there who share my view,˝ he added. ˝I voted against the proposal, hoping they realize what ranks and files think about labor movement today.˝

▽Lesson from Subway Workers` Strike

Subway Corporation Workers` Union in Busan resumed work in a day after it went on a strike on June 24, with engineers apparently missing at the scene. Most of 402 engineers were at the scene on the eve of the strike on June 23, but many of them left in the following morning in protest against union leaders` approach.

The management agreed to raise wages and set up a safety committee at late-night negotiations, but union leaders insisted upon demands the corporation find it impossible to accept such as abolition of one engineer system and use of inflammable materials.

Growing criticism among the general public is also putting pressure on unions. As people`s complaints about union leaders` unilateralism, the labor union at Daegu Subway Corporation hurriedly reached an agreement with the management after nine hours of negotiations.

Members have also begun to disagree with the way leaders deal with key issues and more than a half returned to work on June 25.

˝This strike intends to serve interests of the track unions alliance rather than serve workers` interests,˝ pointed out a member of Incheon Subway Workers Union.

▽Moderate and Down-to-Earth Approach

While the union at Doosan Heavy Industries continues going on a strike for 65 days, most of 3600 members have returned to workplace except about 70 union leaders.

˝Who would stand firm when our interests are not at stake?˝ said a high-ranking official at the union.

Reflecting demands from its members, the union at Hyundai Heavy Industries is seeking to transform itself from a radical labor group refusing to talk with the management into a moderate organization. It ruled out such issues as five-day workweek and discrimination against non-regular employees during negotiations with the management, refusing to follow unilateral directions from KCTU.

FKTU has been encouraging taxi drivers` unions, automobile workers` unions and metal workers` unions to join a general strike set for June 30 to showcase its influence, but workers mostly remain unimpressed.