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Public Workers Banned From All-Out Strikes

[Korea Times 11/13]

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

Workers in industrial and service sectors related to the public's livelihood, health and safety will be banned from holding full-scale strikes from next year.

According to a revision bill on of the Labor Union and Arbitration Law, unionized workers striking legally or illegally are required to maintain core operations of public interest-related services, such as railroads and subways, hospital emergency rooms, airplanes, airports and power plants.

Meanwhile, the management of core public interest-related sectors will be allowed to hire substitute workers, up to 50 percent of the number of striking workers, the government announced Tuesday.

The revision plan was approved at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.

Those who are designated as essentially managed sectors, where only part of the staff can participate in walkouts, are railway engineers; flight attendants, pilots and air traffic controllers; tap water, electric power, gas generation and oil management; blood supply managers; telecommunication networks management; and the Bank of Korea's currency and credit management.

The management and union members can decide how many workers will be kept in their workplaces in these sectors. If they do not reach an agreement, the government will intervene and set rules. Violators will be subject to up to three years imprisonment or up to 30 million won in fines.

The revision also abolished the government's arbitrary intervention, which was often used to delay strikes during a designated period. Previously, the International Labor Organization and others recommended the Korean government remove it.

However, the revision was met with resistance from both unionists and management.

The unions said the revision infringes upon the rights of workers. ``In the past, the government's arbitration period held the full strike back and now it deprives labor unions of the right to hold collective action,'' the spokesman of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions said. He criticized the government for not consulting with unions before drafting the revision bill.

The businessmen, who had expected to welcome the revision, also expressed dissatisfaction. The Korean Employers Federation previously said the logistics sectors should be included in the mandatory managed fields. They said the government should pay more attention to service users or clients who suffer during strikes that take place too often in Korea.

bjs@koreatimes.co.kr

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