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Rehiring Fired Public Workers

Posted December. 22, 2009 13:33,   


The code of conduct for public servants’ unions includes many grand goals. They include abolishing abuse of power and graft, achieving world peace, achieving independent, democratic and peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, and respecting human dignity. Many unions continuously engage in illegal political activities and deviation largely because they are guided by such irrelevant goals. No wonder they are seen as ideological or political groups in the eyes of many people. As hollow as their goals sound, their illegal actions violate the Constitution, which defines government workers as “servants of the public,” and the National Public Service Law, which prohibits political and collective action by them.

Public servants’ unions began as outlawed institutions on March 23, 2002, but became legal on Jan. 28, 2006, under the Roh Moo-hyun administration after the Public Servant Union Law took effect. Since then, the number of such unions has snowballed so high, it is hard to take an accurate count. It seems as if the public exists for the good of public servants instead of vice versa. Furthermore, three such unions have formed a consolidated group to support the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a move that goes against the latest trend of unions at private companies turning away from ideology.

The Roh administration had a tendency to turn a blind eye to the illegal and collective actions of public servants’ unions, and let them off the hook without punishment. Consequently, such leniency encouraged public servants to disregard laws, though they as government workers should set an example in observing law and order. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of public servants who walked off the job to support massive strikes organized by the National Public Servants’ Union in May 2007. The ruling provided a clear standard for public servants who took part in union activities. It condemned passive supporters who were absent without leave but did not participate in the rally, on the grounds that such absence can create administrative hiatus.

Forty-eight representatives from the four opposition parties submitted a bill yesterday to reinstate 140 public servants fired for union activities after the establishment of the public servants’ union in 2002. In other words, the bill aims to rehire them via a special recruitment process and restore their honor and livelihood by eliminating their past record for the grand goal of reform and integration of public servant society. It is absurd that these representatives believe rehiring public servants dismissed for illegal actions and encouraging them to further violate the law are anywhere close to the reform of public servant society.

Editorial Writer Kwon Soon-taek (maypole@donga.com)