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Knee-jerk opposition

Nov 13,2018
Gwangju Mayor Lee Yong-seop and Hyundai Motor President Chung Jin-haeng sat down to discuss an experimental jobs project in which the city would sponsor a car manufacturing site operating with much lower wages to create jobs and save automakers costs. Although the outcome of the meeting was not available immediately, prospects for the project actually going forward remain dim due to strong opposition from Hyundai Motor’s union and the umbrella Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

The so-called Gwangju job model has been closely watched as a new win-win strategy for the Korean economy, which is weighed down by sluggish job creation and waning competitiveness. The assembly line would employ workers for half the wages paid to Hyundai Motor employees with the goal of creating 1,000 directly employed workers and as many as 12,000 indirectly employed people at suppliers. But the project has been strongly contested by unions. Without a settlement by Nov. 15, the deadline for the National Assembly’s review of the 2019 budget bill, the project cannot get money from the state budget. College and high school students in the city issued statements pleading for the project, but the unions vowed to take their protests to the capital if the city and Hyundai Motor make the investment final. They are out to kill jobs for others in order to protect their vested interests.

The KCTU has been against every policy aimed at creating jobs and refuses dialogue. They occupy public places and raid government and company sites to protest and threaten walkouts. They act as if they have a legitimate say in state affairs just because they contributed to getting President Moon Jae-in elected.

The group even opposes the idea of widening the scope of flextime as agreed on by the president and floor leaders of five political parties. Many worksites, especially in R&D, have been having trouble getting work done because of the new 52-hour workweek. Small and medium-sized manufacturers fret they cannot keep up with orders due to shortened working hours. The other umbrella group, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, also opposes most of the changes, but nevertheless is open to dialogue.

The public is losing patience with the militant trade union group which represents a mere 4 percent of salaried workers. The Blue House criticized the labor front for its knee-jerk opposition. Authorities must put their foot down to prevent KCTU excesses from harming society.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 13, Page 30