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More Unions? Corporations Are Worried

Posted May. 18, 2006 03:00,   


Mr. K reported, “With multiple labor unions, the interests of workers could collide, leading to conflict which makes it difficult to maintain the current productivity and competitive edge. Although I cannot disclose it, due to this problem, the company is on its highest alert.”

The Labor Union and Labor Relations Arbitration Law’s period that limits multiple labor unions in a single company expires at the end of this year, and starting from next January, multiple labor unions are permitted for all organizations, hence alarming corporations about their labor management.

Corporations are concerned that with various unions in a company, there will be a flood of diverse demands during the course of labor-management negotiations, and tensions between the unions will be an enormous burden.

Major corporations are busy preparing measures since they consider that the creation of multiple unions will worsen labor-management relations as well as the atmosphere at workplace, which will exert negative effects on productivity.

Many large conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, and SK are beefing up their worker management staff and meticulously reviewing complaints from workers as well as keeping their eyes on the activities of so-called “dangerous workers.”

In particular, Samsung Group, which has adhered to its policy of no-union management for the past 68 years or since its creation, is preparing a group-wide measure. Two worker relationship teams under the group’s human resources department are carefully checking the waters of its subsidiaries.

LG Group also sent additional labor experts to its plants, in particular LG Electronics, in order to listen to the workers’ problems as well as preparing other additional measures.

An LG Group executive commented, “We are focusing on strengthening employee benefits and improving communication within the company so that we can solve the complaints of workers. Presently, overall relations with workers are relatively smooth, so if discontent factors are reduced, I don’t think there will be additional unions sprouting.”

Other conglomerates such as Hyundai-Kia Motors Group and SK Group consider that conflict within the labor union might be a factor that will result in more unions.

However, there are also predictions that these large conglomerates, with relatively well-prepared human resources management systems, will face fewer difficulties than small- and medium-sized business.

Korea Employers Federation Senior Expert Committee member Kim Young-wan worried, “Since there is no regulation on the requirements to create a labor union under the current law, if there are more than two workers, they can make a union. Under the multiple union system, it is possible that union activities will be vociferous, hence leading to the hardship of small- and medium-size business.”

Jeong-Hun Park sunshade@donga.com