Korea’s opposition parties present pro-labor bill to plenary session

2023.05.25 09:40:02 | 2023.05.25 13:53:14

The opposition party members vote for the revision without lawmakers from the ruling party on May 24. [Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

The opposition party members vote for the revision without lawmakers from the ruling party on May 24. [Photo by Yonhap]

A contentious bill that revises the South Korean Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act has been sent to the plenary session for final approval after the opposition party passed a motion on Wednesday despite strong opposition by the government and ruling party.

The National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee held a general meeting on Wednesday and decided to directly present a pro-labor bill that revises Article 23 of the union law to a plenary session without approval from the ruling party-led Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

The Environment and Labor Committee is controlled by the opposition party. Of the entire members, nine belong to the main opposition Democratic Party, one to the minor opposition Justice Party and six to the ruling People Power Party. All six lawmakers from the ruling party walked out while 10 opposition members voted for the revision.

The revised labor bill strengthens the responsibility of general contract employers on their subcontractor employees. It also restricts companies from filing damage suits against workers engaged in strikes and widens the scope of a walkout.

The opposition party’s move to directly present the contentious bill, also referred to as “the yellow envelope bill” to a plenary session comes as it has been pending in the judiciary committee for more than two months after it passed the labor committee on Feb. 21.

Under the National Assembly law, the chairman of a standing committee overseeing the law can decide to refer a bill to the plenary session if the judiciary committee does not complete a bill review within 60 days. The move can be done if it wins support from three-fifths of the committee members.

The ruling People Power Party, in the meantime, plans to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court.

The industry circle, in the meantime, expressed discomfort over the opposition party’s move.

The six business lobby groups in Korea presented a joint statement on Wednesday and noted that “the Democratic Party and Justice Party should be responsible for forcing the new bill without approval from the judiciary committee.”

“The revised bill indiscriminately expands the user concept and breaks down the ecosystem between the employers and subcontractors,” they said. “It will seriously reduce competitiveness.”

The Ministry of Employment and Labor also criticized the new bill, saying that only a few labor union groups will be able to strengthen their power and that workers of companies that do not have an organized union can be negatively affected.

“The revision will bury all of the efforts to resolve the dual structure in the labor market based on autonomy and labor reform based on law,” said Labor Minister Lee Jung-Sik as he urged the opposition lawmakers to reconsider the legislation.

By Seo Dong-cheol, Lee Jin-han, Chung Seung-hwan, and Lee Eun-joo

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