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Government legalizes a third civil servant union

Mar 30,2018
After nine years of attempts, a third union for civil servants has been legally recognized by the labor-friendly Moon Jae-in government.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor on Thursday said it accepted a request made on Monday by the Korean Government Employees’ Union to be recognized as a legal labor union.

The activities of the union including collective bargaining will be protected under the labor law, the ministry said in a statement.

With the approval, the Korean Government Employees’ Union, which was established in 2002 and represents 90,000 government employees, became the third legal civil servant union. The others are the Federation of Government Employees Union, which has the largest membership of 99,000, and the Korean United Government Employees Union, which has 18,000 members.

The Korean Government Employees’ Union made five attempts to be legally recognized since December 2009 under the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration.

The government denied their requests, saying some of its members were employees that were fired.

In 2013, three of the nine leaders of the union were civil servants who had been fired. The union has an internal regulation that allows fired government employees to keep their union membership if decided by the union’s central executive committee.

Under the labor union law that was first enacted in 2006, civil servants who have been fired immediately lose their union memberships. The only exemptions come for people who have filed appeals with the National Labor Relations Commission to review whether their firings were unfair and won their appeals or are still waiting for a verdict.

Since it took office, the Moon government has held six meetings with the union to try to persuade them to change that internal regulation. The union complied.

All 10 current leaders of the union are working civil servants and so are the 198 heads of local chapters.

“Since the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration, which advocates a society that respects labor, there have been continuous efforts to legalize unauthorized labor unions including the Korean Government Employees’ Union,” said Employment and Labor Minister Kim Young-joo.

“We hope [the union] would lead reforms within the civil servant society through sensible criticism and contribute to establishing a labor-management relationship in the public sector.”


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]