Kim Joo-young, leader of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), on Thursday criticized the rival Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) for being “extremely irresponsible,” as the latter refuses to participate in social discussions while objecting to major labor issues. The criticism was a rebuttal to the KCTU’s denunciation of the FKTU for colluding with the government in agreeing to expand the period of flexible work system.
Although Kim admitted that the agreement needs to be complemented, he said that failure to reach the agreement would leave the decision to the National Assembly, which was likely to approve a worse deal for labor. “It is easy to oppose but it is very difficult to propose an alternative and carry it through,” Kim said. The remark was an advice that the KCTU should think about its responsibility as an interested party participating in resolving labor issues. Although the two umbrella trade unions are rivals, it was unusual for the leader of the FKTU to launch a strong criticism of the other union. In June 2008, a former head of the FKTU criticized the KCTU for starting a strike before having dialogue first, which was made during a private gathering.
Since the KCTU walked out of the tripartite commission among the government, industry and labor in 1999, it has consistently waging protests and strikes, without participating in social dialogue. A day after the latest agreement on the flexible work system, the leader of the KCTU had his hair shaven as an expression of his resolution to start a general strike. The FKTU is not without objections from its members. The agreement could work against Kim’s bid for re-election as its leader.
However, it is undesirable to refusing to talk until one’s demand is accepted, rather than trying to seek a compromise through debates and negotiations. Kim said that the KCTU’s opposition played a role in derailing labor-management negotiations on minimum wages and letting the National Assembly pass the worst-case bill. He meant that unconditional objection led to a more unfavorable result.