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Labor Agreements to Face Tougher Gov’t Scrutiny

Posted February. 05, 2010 08:35,   


The government will crack down on the abuse of the paid time-off system, with violators to face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to 20 million won (17,346 U.S. dollars).

The Labor Ministry yesterday issued guidelines for collective agreements to its branch offices nationwide.

The paid time-off system allows partial corporate pay for full-time union officials.

The ministry ordered its branches to inspect every business with 100 employees or more with a collective bargaining agreement and immediately punish time-off system violators. Labor supervisors with judicial power were also ordered to investigate since the infringement of time-off rules could be viewed as a violation of the Trade Union and Labor Relation Adjustment Act.

The ministry said giving salaries to full-time unionists or paying wages larger than the standard set under time-off rules after July will be considered violations. The Time-off Deliberation Commission will more clearly define the range of time-off rules in April or May.

Accordingly, businesses with 100 employees or more must report their collective bargaining agreements between labor and management to regional labor offices. Those that do not will be fined three million won (2,602 dollars).

Regional labor offices will also inspect the details of collective bargaining agreements and come down on businesses that pay employees more than the limits set by time-off rules.

If management and labor fail to uphold the law, each side will face a fine of five million won (4,337 dollars). If a business keeps violating the law after paying a fine, its owner can face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to 20 million won (17,346 U.S. dollars).

A high-ranking Labor Ministry official said, “Government supervision of collective bargaining agreements has certainly been in name only. In many cases, it even failed to uncover businesses whose management and labor signed improper agreements. After introducing time-off rules, the government will strictly supervise each business’s collective bargaining agreement.”

Under the new ministry guidelines, businesses cannot renew their collective bargaining agreements in this year’s first half or give full-time unionist salaries for a prolonged period.

Unions, however, say the rules preventing businesses from giving full-time unionists salaries to effect in July and the validity of collective bargaining agreements signed before July should be kept over the term of availability, or two years.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions has ordered its affiliate trade unions to sign collective bargaining agreements that allow full-time unionists to get paid in the first half of the year. The Korea Metal Workers’ Union under the federation will also ask management to renew agreements this month.

“If a union asks management to hold collective bargaining or a special negotiation when a collective bargaining agreement remains valid, it violates a legal obligation to maintain peace between labor and management,” the ministry said.

“If union members go on a strike to press management to renew collective bargaining agreements or hold special negotiations, they will face civil and criminal responsibilities since such a strike is far from a legal union activity.”