[Korea Times, 11 Sep] Agreement Reached on New Labor Reform Bill

by khmu posted May 20, 2008


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Unions, management and the government Monday reached an agreement on the new labor reform bill. The accord followed the government’s last-minute concession to accept the union’s proposal to put off implementing some key issues of the bill by three years.

But the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the two leading labor groups said it opposed the agreement and will stage a strike next month supported by the Democratic Labor Party.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), one of the nation’s two flagship labor organizations, has been requesting the three-year delay of implementation of the two controversial clauses, which bans employers from paying full-time union officials and introduces multiple unions at the same company.

The two have been at the core of the conflict among three parties since the tripartite negotiations began. Firstly, the government proposed a five-year delay, but due to fierce protest from the union, they shortened the grace period to three years.

``In order to make a step forward in labor-management relations, the government has decided to fully accept the FKTU proposal to delay the two clauses for three years,’’ Labor Minister Lee Sang-soo said yesterday at a press conference in Yoido, Seoul.

The government’s sudden change of position comes after the two flagship labor organizations, FKTU and KCTU, had threatened to launch a general strike to protest the government’s planned legislation of the bill early this week.

Lee had said that the government could accept the FKTU proposals only on certain conditions. On Sunday, the minister said that the delay would be accepted only if labor and management pledge to implement the systems in three years without fail and if other systems such as unifying bargaining channels at companies for multiple unions are prepared in advance.

The agreement was reached after three-hour-long final negotiations by representatives from the three parties _ Minister Lee, Cho Seong-joon, chairman of the Tripartite Commission, Lee Yong-deuk, chairman of the FKTU and Lee Soo-young, chairman of Korea Employers Federation.

In the accord the three sides also agreed to abolish the government’s compulsory arbitration of strikes at industries that are vitally related to public life such as hospitals and railways.

In return for scrapping the arbitration, alternative temporary workers will be allowed to maintain minimum services at selected companies. In addition to railways, electricity generation, hospitals, oil and the Bank of Korea, new industries subject to this rule include airlines, the Korea National Red Cross and water suppliers.

Dismissed employees will be guaranteed the right to be rehired and get financial compensation when the firing is legally judged to be unfair. Companies refusing to rehire unfairly fired workers will be subject to fines.

The three parties have been involved in a tug of war for the past 10 years on the government-proposed labor roadmap, which was made to improve South Korea’s labor-management relations.

The government will submit the bill to the National Assembly this month for passage.