Chun Dae-joo (..., senior managing director of the Federation of Korean Industries, speaks at a meeting of the chief planners and coordinators of the nation's 30 leading industries conglomerates to discuss the labor law revision, at the Hotel Lotte yesterday.
Domestic business community, while expressing strong discontent with the government's labor reform bill, set about to carefully weigh its advantages and disadvantages yesterday. The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI, the powerful lobbying group for the large industrial conglomerates, or chaebol, said that the federation is very disappointed with the government's draft bill as it came in "utter defiance of the foremost goal of strengthening competitiveness.''
In an announcement issued after a meeting of the chief planners and coordinators at the nation's 30 leading chaebols at Hotel Lotte, it said, "With the unified power of entire business community, we proclaim to go all out to make the labor revision serve the national purpose of enhancing competitiveness.'' It said that the employers cannot help being worried about "great confusion'' at individual work place with the introduction of multiple unions amid the already slumping economy.
"Considering the nation's labor movement still beset with illegal strikes and radical groups, the permission of multiple unions and intervention by third parties in labor actions is feared to aggravate the industrial unrest, even threatening the existences of some companies,'' it announced. While reiterating the businesses' opposition to the labor law revision, the FKI said that it would strongly cope with the government's bill so as to change it to better the purpose of enhancing competitiveness.
The announcement, however, failed to comment on how the FKI would deal with the proposed revision, but added that it hoped that the law be revised in such a way as to contribute to the national economy by undergoing sufficient examinations within the government and the National Assembly. Other business associations, while evaluating positively about the bill, also expressed concerns about the permission of multiple unions.
The Korea Employers Federation said that the government needs to reconsider the plural union system, saying it is premature in view of Korea's reality of labor activism. The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry evaluated the government's proposal as going "one step closer toward enhancing competitiveness and realizing advanced labor-management relationship,'' but added that the multiple union system will likely trigger severe conflicts not only in labor-management relations but also within the labor itself.
Lee Hahn-koo, president of Daewoo Economic Research Institute, said that he is concerned that external, hardline labor activists could intervene in labor strife of individual work places. Chung Soon-won, senior researcher at Hyundai Economic Research Institute, said that the management will have to spend a lot more time on dealing with the unions next year, which he said would add difficulties to the already troubled Korean employers.
Lee Jong-dae, director of Kia Economic Research Institute, unlike other economists affiliated with large businesses, was rather optimistic about Korea's attaining industrial peace in the long run. "Now that the businesses have five years of time to prepare for multiple unions, they will not have to worry much if the firms can maintain industrial peace over the period,'' he said. Lee, however, said that the streamlining of labor's negotiating channel without much conflict as a precondition to the smooth transition.
On the other hand, some business executives said that the government have had little alternatives to the proposal, as it was under pressure from international organizations, such as the International Labor Organizations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The multiple union system itself can also prevent extreme confrontation between the labor and management as it would make balance and check between the unions possible, some observers said.
As long as the management retains the exclusive negotiation rights as is the case of the United States, they can hold the dominant leverage in the collective bargaining, they said.
1996 Korea Herald