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[Editorial] Trade Union Attacks Opposing Civic Groups

Posted June. 28, 2007 03:14,   


Some 4,000 Ulsan citizens gathered yesterday to urge the labor union of the Hyundai Motor Company to stop its illegal strike. Elsewhere, bus drivers in Daejeon have been striking for six days, but citizens of the city are supportive of the city government and showed mature citizenship by saying, “We can put up with the inconvenience. We don’t want the city to give in to the drivers.”

Now, unionized workers are fighting against citizens. A couple of days ago, some 50 KCTU Ulsan members stormed Ulsan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCI) and destroyed placards, pickets and shoulder bands that civic groups had prepared for a protest against the union’s strike. This unprecedented violence continued for an hour, before the angry workers warned, “Today we stop right here to give a warning,” and left.

Public opinion is already aligned against the unions and their illegal strikes. Hyundai Motors union is poised to push ahead with its planned anti-KORUS FTA protest, to which the vast majority of union members object, just because the leaders of the upper organization want it. The Hyundai Motors union, which is the biggest beneficiary of the trade pact, doesn’t have any legitimate cause to stage a protest, nor is it not in its interest. This kind of habitual strike by labor unions has already had its consequences. In 2005, Hyundai had the biggest market share in the Russian market, but this May, the company saw its share slide to 5th place because reckless strikes prevented the company from supplying cars on time.

Union activity should reflect public opinion, market demand and mindset of its members. The Chairman of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions Lee Yeong-deok, along with the minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy, has traveled to Japan to attract investment. He also delivered a speech on the “mutually beneficial paradigm between labor and management.” The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), on the other hand, blocked its workers on the Avante assembly line from being transferred to a Sonata one, prompting a critical comment from the president: “I am not happy with the KCTU.”

A labor union that is criticized by the public cannot thrive for long, and a company that is swayed by such trade unions cannot survive for a long time. Hyundai car workers should ignore the irrational demands from their union. They should have the courage to say “no” to their union’s irrational demands.