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[Editorial] End the Vicious Circle Between Labor-Employer Relations

[Editorial] End the Vicious Circle Between Labor-Employer Relations

Posted May. 31, 2004 22:21,   


The Korean people expect that the meeting held yesterday between labor, management and government presided by President Roh Moo-hyun in Cheong Wa Dae will be a new breakthrough in improving relations between labor unions and employers. As long as distrust, misunderstanding, entanglement, and destructive conflicts exist between labor and management, as long as the government intervenes with no principle, and temporary measures based on power instead of law keep repeating, it will be difficult to find any hope for revitalizing the nation’s economy.

During the forum, President Roh suggested that labor unions, employers and the administration set up a temporary dialogue channel, which includes small and medium enterprises and temporary workers as well. This proposal is interpreted as an effort to enhance efficiency in labor talks as they newly accept the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) as an official counterpart in the 3-way labor talks. The result would turn out to be successful if they are able to lower the confrontation and conflict between the two sides and share their opinions on major issues through this communication channel.

However, during the meeting yesterday, both sides--labor and management--still showed a large gap of different viewpoints about working conditions for irregular workers, the five-day workweek, labor union involvement in company management, social contribution fund, pay raises for this year and other issues. The meeting hinted that labor unions and employers cannot reach an agreement easily. Nevertheless, it would be improper for the government to make unnatural order without fully understanding the real business condition.

Labor, management, and government need to think over the reason why “they should build a cooperative relationship between the two parties.” After all, the relations between labor and management should be made to provide excellent circumstances for doing business. By these efforts, we should be able to increase investment and jobs, and maximize the driving power of the nation’s industries and companies.

If we fail to do so, as Labor Minister Kim Dae-whan said yesterday, “it will be difficult to enhance the living conditions for workers, strengthen competitiveness of companies, and reach the $20,000 of per capita GNP, which will eventually harm both labor and management, and the public as well.” We cannot cut off the vicious circle unless each of us only sticks to one’s own interest.