Unions must with­draw plan for gen­eral strike

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

It seems that rad­i­cal unions will ig­nore public calls for re­straint and go ahead with a gen­eral strike next week, which, in all re­gards, is not only il­le­gal but also self-serv­ing.

The gen­eral strike, set for April 24, is to be led by the mil­i­tant um­brella group Korean Con­fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions. It said it was call­ing for the strike in op­po­si­tion to the gov­ern­ment’s push for la­bor mar­ket re­form and over­haul of gov­ern­ment work­ers’ pen­sion sys­tem. It also de­mands to raise the min­i­mum wage to 10,000 won.

The strike will be joined by gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees unions and the teach­ers’ union, which are in the vanguard of the protests against the civil ser­vice pen­sion re­form. They also de­mand the re­vi­sion of a con­tro­ver­sial or­di­nance re­gard­ing the spe­cial law for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Se­wol ferry dis­as­ter and the res­ig­na­tion of the la­bor min­is­ter.

Most of all, th­ese is­sues have lit­tle to do with work­ers’ rights and work­ing con­di­tions. One can eas­ily read what the unions had on their minds — they want to launch a po­lit­i­cal of­fen­sive against the gov­ern­ment in time for their an­nual “spring strug­gle.” It is also ap­par­ent that they are try­ing to fan antigov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment in time for the first an­niver­sary of the Se­wol ferry sink­ing and cam­paign­ing for the April 29 par­lia­men­tary by-elec­tions.

It is not rare for rad­i­cal unions in the coun­try to re­sort to po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, il­le­gal strikes to pro­tect their in­ter­ests, but the April 24 strike could not come at a worse time.

The tri­par­tite com­mit­tee’s talks on la­bor mar­ket re­form have rup­tured re­cently, dim­ming prospects for a grand com­pro­mise on pending la­bor is­sues. Height­en­ing of ten­sion be­tween la­bor on one side and the gov­ern­ment and em­ploy­ers on the other will make the des­per­ately needed com­pro- mise more elu­sive.

The out­come of the union­ists’ votes on the gen­eral strike tes­ti­fies to the lack of le­git­i­macy for the ill- timed plan. The KCTU said 84 per­cent of its rank-and­file mem­bers who cast bal­lots sup­ported the strike. What it did not say is that the union­ists’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the vote was so low that the pro­por­tion of the strike sup­port­ers to the unions’ full mem­ber­ships re­mains at 55 per­cent.

In Ul­san, the com­pa­ra­ble fig­ure was 44 per­cent, well be­low the ma­jor­ity of union mem­bers in the city. The union lead­er­ship must feel dis­turbed since the industrial city, which hosts such big firms as Hyundai Mo­tor Group, is its strong­hold.

It is wrong for the KCTU to hold on to a strike that is not fully sup­ported even by its mem­bers, let alone the gen­eral public. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Korea Her­ald on April 16

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