Unions must withdraw plan for general strike
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