New union to provide thrust to Korea’s labor reform efforts

2023.02.20 11:31:02 | 2023.02.20 16:43:01

Seoul Metro (Seoul Transportation Corp.) [Photo by Lee Chung-woo]이미지 확대

Seoul Metro (Seoul Transportation Corp.) [Photo by Lee Chung-woo]



A labor union federation representing the voices of office workers and R&D employees in their 20s and 30s will officially be launched this week in a response by the Millennials and Generation Z, who are opposed to the political struggles waged by the country’s two biggest unions.

The establishment of the new union, which calls for performance-based wages based on fair evaluation and a transparent labor union, is raising expectations that Yoon Seok-yeol administration’s labor reform will gain further momentum.

The “Refresh Labor Council,” which brings together office worker unions from major private and public companies, will hold an inaugural ceremony in Seoul Tuesday. The new union currently has 4,492 members from eight company unions. Among private companies, unions from LG Electronics Inc., LG Energy Solution Ltd., Kumho Tire Co. and LS Electric Co. are participating in the new union, while those from Samsung Display Co. and SK Magic Co. are considering joining as new members.

Among public corporations, unions of Seoul Transportation Corp., Busan Tourism Organization and the general workers at Korailnetworks Co. will be joining the new union. LG Electronics’ union chair Yoo Jun-hwan will lead the new group with Song Si-young, chairman of Seoul Transportation union, serving as vice chairman.

Compared to the two biggest trade unions, which each have over 1.2 million members, the MZ union with less than 5,000 members is still a weak force. In addition, the MZ union is unable to obtain separate bargaining rights at individual workplaces due to the “principle of a single bargaining channel” under the Trade Union Act.

However, public opinion is favorable. The two major unions are mainly composed of production workers at large companies and are criticized for their involvement in politics. They are also insisting on keeping the seniority-based pay system. MZ union’s Vice Chairman Song said in an interview with Maeil Business Newspaper, “We will try to create a union only for the rights and interests of real employees, excluding politics and violence.”

The government also expects the MZ union to provide the basis for labor reform. The government plans to move to a performance-based pay system from the seniority-based pay system. It also aims to break down the dual structure of the labor market between large and small companies. It plans to make working hours flexible, which became rigid due to the introduction of the 52-hour system, and to revise the union’s unclear finances and accounting.

Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Won Hee-ryong on Sunday said, “We will thoroughly stamp out illegal activities under the guise of labor unions.”

The ministry will discuss at a cabinet meeting Tuesday a plan to grant special judicial police power to officials at the regional construction and management administration branches under the ministry to allow efficient investigation of illegal activities by labor unions.

By Lee Jong-hyeok, Kim Yoo-shin, and Yoon Yeon Hae

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]