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Labor strikes, layoffs likely to become easier

By Sim Sung-tae, The Korea Herald, 29 August 2003

The Korean government is considering making it easier for labor unions to strike and for employers to lay off workers, Cheong Wa Dae officials said yesterday.

The plan and other measures, which will be announced early next month, was discussed during a workshop between Cheong Wa Dae, the Labor Ministry and a special committee on labor-management relations.

To improve labor market flexibility, the government plans to reduce the notification period 30 days for lay-offs and the number of full-time labor union executives paid by their companies.

Currently, employers can shut down their firms only when faced with legal labor strikes, but the government is considering widening the regulation to include illegal strikes.

In the meantime, the government also plans to strengthen labor rights by allowing workers to strike at any time without requiring a negotiation period with their management.

Public officials may be granted a right to act collectively and hospital workers could also be allowed to form a labor union.

The government also plans to allow workers to have more than one labor union at any company.

A top Cheong Wa Dae official who is familiar with the matter said the new labor policy will focus on strengthening the rights of both labor and management at the same time.

It is not right to say the government’s plan favors one particular side since the rights of labor and management are intertwined, he said.