Rough sailing is expected over this year's collective bargaining and wage negotiations between labor and management.
The local labor environment will likely undergo a tremedous change as the government has declared the revision of labor- related laws in a run-up to Korea's entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Develpment (OECD). But the wrangling over the planned amendment to labor laws has been under way between labor and management representative bodies as well as between labor federations.
Early this year, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), an unlauthorized labor organization, pledged to form an alliance to press their demands, singnalling "unsually turbulent'' prospects for this year's collective bargainging and wage negotaions.
The KCTU, inaugurated late last year, put forward such demands as the reinstatment of dismissed unionists, the introduction of a 40-hour workweek system and the abolishion of a clause pertaining to government mediation in labor disputes at state-run companies and other "public-interest'' concerns. To make things from bad to worse, the Federation of Korea Trade Unions (FKTU) has taken a hawkish line in a bid to gain an upper hand over a "hegemony battle'' with the KCTU, departing from its previous "appeasement'' gestures toward the government.
For instance, the FKTU has refused to negotiate with the Korea Employers Federation (KEF) in order to set the rage of wage hikes, unlike previous years. The labor organization, with its archrival KCTU in mind, has proposed demands calling for a guarantee in labor's participation in politics and a second trade union in a work site, among others.
Despite the government's objection, the KEF, a management group comrpising of large corporations, proposed a 4.8 percent wage hike, a much lower level.
In an ominous sign, some member companies of the KCTU, including Kia Motors Corp., are planning to stage a general strike next Monday. Others, including Hyundai Motor Co., as well as state-financed corporations such as the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corp. have already submitted a report of labor dispute, forming a kind of alliance. (KSY)