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Labor Management Relations, from Mutual Struggle to Mutual Benefit

Labor Management Relations, from Mutual Struggle to Mutual Benefit

Posted December. 19, 2004 22:50,   


Harmonious Labor-Management Relations Models-

The labor union of SK Chemicals has recently agreed on different wage hike rates for each division depending on management performance, in return for the management’s promise to guarantee job security of unionized workers.

The LG Caltex union, of which 647 members were given a reprimand due to labor strikes in August, set “harmonious and cooperative industrial relations” as the new direction for its activity on December 9.

LG Oil union, which walked away from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in October this year, already made a detailed action plan including thorough management of plants, innovative activities and establishment of a right personnel policy. The union is also considering making a “no strike” declaration early next year.

The union of Hyundai Heavy Industries, which was famous for its “Goliath struggle” and was at the forefront of militant labor movement in the 1980s, withdrew from KCTU in October. It announced last week that it would use for the revitalization of the local economy some of its 10-billion-won “struggle fund” that it has amassed for the last 10 years by avoiding any single strike.

Prior to the announcement, management of Pantech, a mobile phone manufacturer, reportedly decided to a 10 percent wage increase for its employees, saying, “It’s true that the company is not in good condition, but not to the extent that it has to freeze wage hike.” The decision was particularly surprising because the union already agreed in a meeting of representatives that it would accept a wage-freeze policy to boost competitiveness of the company.

The Reason for Change-

During this year’s summer labor struggle, a broad understanding was made that the militant labor movement focused on strike and lacking in public support already lost ground in Korean society.

Public opinion is very influential in labor the movement now. The LG Oil labor union had to quit strikes last August due to the public criticism that strikes by such high-income workers as LG Oil employees cannot be justified. Public Officials’ union also wrapped up its strike last month amid harsh criticism that it is outrageous that public officials whose job security is guaranteed stage an illegal strike demanding the right to collective action.

A Korea Tripartite Commission official predicted on December 19 that there will be more and more labor movements in which unionized workers, their company and the community unite on the basis of community service and mutual trust of labor and management.

Jong-Hoon Lee taylor55@donga.com