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Sharply Divided Civic Groups

Posted April. 22, 2005 23:38,   


Amid flaring controversies over the labor market reform bills as the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) released its guidelines, many sharply divided civic groups have held intense debates over the bills.

The Korean Professors Union, the National Association of Professors for Democratic Society, and the Korean Association of Academic Societies issued a statement on April 22, calling on the government and the ruling party to drop the pending bill and to respect the guidelines from the NHRC immediately.

They argued, “The bills designed to protect workers’ rights by the government in effect have the nature of maintaining discrimination and expanding non-regular workers,” and went on to say, “If passed, the bills will not have any effect on ending the discrimination that non-regular workers face and will only reduce many regular workers to non-regular workers.”

The civic groups emphasized, “The government should withdraw the bills and accommodate the guidelines from the NHRC to make laws that can truly safeguard non-regular workers.”

Meanwhile, four civic groups including Christian NGO and “Lawyers Society for Living with the People (LSLP)” said, “The laborers are acting collectively, calling for more stringent regulations on hiring temporary workers, capitalizing on the NHRC guidelines,” and denounced the trade unions of big companies as “selfish” saying, “They are shirking their responsibilities.”

The groups said, “The political circles should not be complacent in populism, and the bills should not be damaged because of the laborers’ selfishness or the myopic views of some civic groups.”

Lee Seok-yeon, a lawyer of LSLP, asserted, “NHRC’s guidelines lack the balance between labor and management in light of the constitution.”

To resolve the issue, the groups have started to collect signatures urging a freeze on paychecks at big corporations, transparent corporate management, the discontinuance of the high-handed demand on vendors, and legal safeguard measures for low-paid workers.

Yi-Young Cho lycho@donga.com