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[Editorial] Confusion over Temp Worker Law

Posted September. 03, 2009 08:22,   


The Labor Ministry’s survey of temporary workers says no crisis as serious as the ministry feared erupted after a law requiring employers to make them permanent after two years or longer took effect July 1. About 70 percent of such workers were expected to be laid off but more than half of them were made into regular staff.

Overall, state-run corporations and large companies respected the law, either bringing on temporary workers full-time or letting them go. Yet many small and medium businesses were found to have retained temps as irregular workers though they had worked for more than two years. Many of the employers still consider temps as irregular employees though they are considered regular by law. Some employers did not renew employment contracts with temps on the belief that the government would keep its promise to double the irregular employment period to four years.

Before the law took effect, employers and employees could renew their contracts an unlimited number of times under mutual agreement. While the law makes it impossible to renew employment contracts after two years, many employers and employees stuck to the practice before the law’s effectuation. This was caused by the law’s failure to reflect the reality of the workplace due to an obsession with protecting irregular workers. Many such workers thought it was better to keep their jobs even if labor law did not protect them.

Temps who renewed contracts as irregular workers are legally permanent staff, but they could argue with employers that still consider them temps. Employers could try to lay off such workers when the business outlook turns bleak, while employees could resist by claiming illegal layoffs. Such confusion was caused by the temporary workers’ law that the administration and the ruling party failed to revise. Opposition parties are also to blame, as they proposed no alternative while opposing the revision of the law.

The government also caused confusion by warning of a major employment crisis before the law’s effectuation, only to shift its policy in less than a month to encourage employers to convert temps to regular staff. The government should conduct an accurate survey of the employment situation and act to ensure the job security of temps. This is not a matter to be handled with stopgap measures.