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A step too far

Aug 04,2018
Employment and Labor Minister Kim Young-joo may have shot himself in the foot with his over-eagerness to please the union and liberal front that helped put President Moon Jae-in in office.

A reform committee he set up under a presidential order on administrative offices to address and correct so-called past ills has gone too far.

The committee advised the ministry to reinstate the outlawed Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union and remove the clause in the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act that empowers the ministry to disband a union.

In short, it has demanded the government bend the law to legitimize the teachers’ union.

The lower and appeals courts both ruled in favor of the government’s decision to outlaw the union for breaking the law by allowing dismissed teachers to remain as members. The case is under review by the Supreme Court.

What the advisory board suggests is to reverse the earlier decision and scrap the legal grounds, a move that disregards both the judiciary and legislative. If not, it may be at least trying to influence the final decision by the Supreme Court.

The committee also has advised the ministry to investigate the subcontractor status at Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors production lines and order the two automakers to directly hire agency workers.

The two carmakers have been converting agency workers who worked in the same conditions as their employees after a certain period since 2012 and have now moved 6,000 people onto the permanent payroll. They plan to convert an additional 3,500 by 2021 under agreements between the unions and employers.

The committee has ordered the unnecessary meddling of the government. The government’s role is to keep intervention to a minimum on labor relations. The committee does not even have the least bit of respect for the voluntary labor-management relationship.

The committee was formed mostly with labor-friendly figures. Its reform outline unsurprisingly has become unilateral and one-sided. The Labor Ministry should pay little heed to recommendations from the committee that has clearly misunderstood its purpose.
The minister should be careful about how he puts his foot down.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 3, Page 30