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Critical double standards

Apr 12,2019
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SOHN HAE-YONG
The author is the head of the economic policy team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

On March 25, a petition titled “Do people know how the construction market is dragged down by construction unions?” was posted on the Blue House online petition board. It claims that most construction workers are hired by unions, not companies, due to unions’ influence.
The petitioner wrote, “Some unions demand hiring their members, even blocking the entrance in the morning. They illegally screened the workers, blocked the truck mixer, making concrete harden […] Some places gave tens of thousands of dollars out of pressure to manage union members.” He continued, “It wouldn’t matter if they do well. But union members often work more than 10 days to do the same work that non-union members can do in five days.” “They slack off and extort wages, demanding wages for the days they protested.”

The petition has already garnered 33,000 signatures, the highest in the job-related section. If the complaints are true, unions acted like they were above the law. In fact, some unions’ abuse of power is common. Most notably, the truckers’ group under the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) blocked access to the Sungwoo Hitech factory in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang, with dozens of trucks in November. The company could not receive the delivery and had to give up in six hours, conceding to the union’s demand to fire non-union members and hire KCTU members. The police were present, but were only watching the scene.

It is not just companies that are hurt by some unions’ reckless demands. Construction workers struggle to find jobs, and they don’t get a fair chance, as children and relatives of union members are preferred. As construction jobs are decreasing as a result of the minimum wage increase and sluggish market, only some unions get to safeguard their jobs. What’s more serious is that the order of the state is disturbed for their job security. They make excessive demands, occupying government agencies, assaulting public authority and disturbing people’s daily lives with noisy protests. While people go to jail for illegal acts, union members are often saved from actual prison sentences.

It is ironic that a government that advocates fairness more than any other administration is neglecting this unfairness. I cannot help but have the reasonable doubt that they were given permission to break the law because they contributed to the launch of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. This is especially so when investigations of companies are conducted quickly over even minor charges and involve search and seizure.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 29