Go to contents

[Editorial] Irrational Arguments by Unions

Posted September. 11, 2009 09:04,   


A court has upheld the Public Administration and Security Ministry’s punishment and lawsuit against six members of the Federation of Government Employee Unions. The six issued a political declaration in June last year to oppose the resumption of American beef imports. The ruling confirms that their declaration on political issues unrelated to working conditions of unionists violated the Act on the Establishment of Public Officials’ Trade Unions, which prevents public servants from political activities.

The ministry ordered the six unionists to go on unpaid suspension. The court stood by this decision, saying, “The ministry’s decision can be understood as an attempt to correct unlawful activities of unionists who dedicate themselves to a union’s activities without suspending them from office temporarily, while nominally working as government officials.” The ruling sounds good because the court supports rule of law and corrects the groundless stubbornness of the public servants’ union.

The majority of 70 companies whose workers have gone on strike this year, including Ssangyong Motor, have stuck to the principle of “no work, no pay.” In July last year, Kumho Tires paid half of the salaries of its striking union members, but this year, it shut down the factory and declined to pay members when they occupied the plant. When organized workers stopped working for eight days last year, Kia Motors paid each of them 30 percent of their living expenses and an additional 3.6 million won (2,943 U.S. dollars) in bonuses. Yet the practice of companies paying striking workers partial salaries or other benefits has begun disappearing.

To help the principle of "no work, no pay” take root in the country, the government should not intervene in labor-management disputes. In Korea, certain companies used to pay salaries to striking workers to help end the walkout. The government used to intervene in labor-management disputes and turned a blind eye to the practice to help companies to normalize operations. If no state intervention is made in labor conflicts, companies will feel more responsible for resolving the disputes and stick to the “no work, no pay” principle. Unionists will also refrain from making irrational demands.

Even union members are turning away militant behavior. Around ten unions including those of Ssangyong Motor, KT, Incheon Rapid Transit Corp. and Yungjin Pharm have bolted from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions this year, saying they oppose the umbrella labor group’s “extremely political struggle.” If workers as well as the government and corporations maintain law and order, the confederation cannot stick to its unreasonable arguments.

Nevertheless, principles are still being overshadowed by illegal forces in many organizations. Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education has proposed collective bargaining with several provisions on personnel management of privately owned schools and public education policies. The proposal violates the Establishment and Management of the Teachers` Union Act, which says only issues related to economic and social matters such as wages, working conditions and welfare can be negotiated in collective bargaining. If the Gyeonggi office understands this provision, it should not discuss this issue in collective bargaining even if union members want to. It is absurd that the office was the one to propose something so unreasonable.