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[Editorial] Labor Unions Aren`t Listening

Posted June. 30, 2003 21:53,   


While the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and Federation of Korea Trade Unions (FKTU) have denounced the government for its use of force, they repeatedly have failed to make their case before the public. The government is not really the party they should be screaming at to end their labor-management disputes. It plays the role of mediator between the two sides. In this regard, trade unions are now playing a political game by pointing their fingers at their leaders.

The railway workers` union says that it opposes privatization of the Korea National Railroad for the people`s sake. By opposing privatization, it is forcing the government to bear the burden of some 11 trillion won in debts, supposed to be paid out by operating profits after privatization. 11 trillion won will then come from the government coffers, that is, from taxpayers.

The union is also insisting that the railroad corporation lead the railway repair project already assigned to the Railroad Infrastructure Corporation, a move that is aimed at winning the tug of war; nothing to do with public interests.

In Germany, a country known for its strong labor unions, steel unionists decided last week to stop the strike to accommodate business and people`s concern for the economy. It was the first time in 50 years for the country`s labor movement.

“The bitter truth we learned from this failed strike is that striking is not a solution to all problems,” said head of the German steel workers` union. Unionists in this country, which has only a third of per capita income compared to Germany, have turned a blind eye to the fact that the economy is in bad shape, and are eager to increase their share of the pie.

FKTU even mobilized taxies and truck mixers in pursuit of their own interests, blocking roads and causing a whole mess of trouble. The fact that the rally ended up an aborted attempt proves that rank-and-file unionists are not happy with the way union leaders are attempting to make political gains.

President Roh reiterated on June 30 that “the government will not tolerate any illegal actions and deal with them based on the law.” The prevailing sentiment among Koreans is that the government must take a firm stance to stop labor unions from further going astray. The government must teach a valuable lesson to radical unions - a strike that holds the entire society captive for the sake of certain interest groups is bound to fail.