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Internal Conflict in Labor Union Regarding Industry-level Negotiations

Internal Conflict in Labor Union Regarding Industry-level Negotiations

Posted August. 02, 2004 22:15,   


The Seoul National University Hospital labor union demanded the abolishment of the industry-level agreement that stipulates “individual labor unions cannot re-negotiate issues agreed upon at the industry-level” and announced to “conditionally withdraw from the industry-level union,” sending ripples across Korean unions. It is unprecedented for an individual union to threaten to withdraw from the industry-level, citing the provisions of the industry-level agreement.

In response, the medical labor union implied confrontation, stating, “It is irresponsible for a big hospital union to ignore the industry-level agreement which was obtained with difficulty.”

Hence, some predict the deepening of internal conflict between labor unions in the medical labor union, which achieved an industry-level agreement after going through this year’s first industry-level strike. On the other hand, the problem of industry-level negotiation ineffectiveness is also likely to be raised.

The SNU Hospital union announced on August 2 that on July 29, 89.9 percent of the union members voted for withdrawing from the medical labor union if Article 10-2 of the industry-level agreement, stipulating: “Industry-level agreement overcomes individual agreements in the areas of wage, vacations, bonuses, and work hours,” is not abolished.

According to the SNU Hospital union, the reason for such determination is, “This article [10-2] is a venomous article that completely blocks the rights of individual unions to engage in negotiations.” In reality, however, it is viewed that the SNU Hospital union feels it could have attained more results through individual negotiations because the SNU Hospital is a large hospital with more resources.

Lee Joo-ho, head of the Policy Department at the Medical Labor Union, said, “The purpose of industry-level negotiation is to decrease the gap in working conditions, so the unions of big hospitals have to yield a bit and allow the wages of weaker union workers working at small hospitals to increase.”

He added, “We will decide on concrete response measures while we evaluate the outcome of the industry-level agreement sometime in August.”

The medical labor union is very displeased with the SNU Hospital union’s actions that damaged the results of the industry-level negotiations when it ignored the industry-level agreement and continued to strike.

The leadership of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) intends to hold a meeting soon to plan punitive measures in the KCTU level against the SNU Hospital union.

Meanwhile, at the medical labor union website, supporters of both sides engaged in a war of words, showing that the internal conflict is likely to deepen.

A member of the Korean Hospital Association said, “This event has re-confirmed the ineffectiveness of industry-level negotiations, which is breeding conflict even among the unions,” and concluded, “I think expensive and time-consuming industry-level negotiations are no longer necessary.”

Jong-Hoon Lee taylor55@donga.com