Go to contents

[Editorial] A Union with Decorum

Posted March. 19, 2008 03:20,   


The new chairman of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, Jang Seok-choon, paid a goodwill visit to Federation of Korean Industries President Cho Seok-rae yesterday.

Jang said, “Unions will be courteous when negotiating with management.” Cho responded, “We will educate companies who belittle unions (to make them aware of the importance of partnership).” As promised by the two leaders, if labor and management pursue peaceful coexistence with decorum, the nation’s future will become much brighter.

Whenever labor and management clash, violence and abusive language replace company rank and order. Early last year, the opening ceremony at Hyundai Motor’s Ulsan factory turned into chaos when certain union members, disgruntled over a cut in performance bonuses, crashed the event. They sprayed fire extinguishers, injuring the company president. Four years ago, union members of a large company staged a performance in which an effigy of the company chairman was beheaded.

Labor’s hostility towards management threatens labor’s existence as well. It’s time for unions to grow into a more mature partner to management.

Fortunately, a growing number of unions are deserting their strike-oriented inclinations and declaring no disputes and wage freezes based on agreement with management. This signals a positive transformation of labor-management relations.

Around ten big companies, including LG Electronics, Dongkuk Steel and Korean Air, have completed wage negotiations without dispute this year. The Seoul Bus Transportation Union, a public sector union whose wage negotiations directly affect the people’s lives, agreed to a pay raise of two percent. This was lower than last year’s inflation rate (2.5 percent) and the union declared no strike.

The leadership of the trade union federation, which hangs on to outdated, hard-line political struggle, is advised to shed its anachronistic and distorted old practices. “Mischievous” acts are neither in the interests of labor nor that of the nation.

New union leader Jang has suggested a joint declaration by labor, management and the government “to encourage business to strive to perform its social responsibilities and address the plight of non-regular workers, government measures to curb inflation such as freezing utility bills and tuition fees, and labor’s agreement to pay freezes and improved productivity.” This suggestion shows he is a courageous and competent leader able to present alternatives.