Perceiving no chance of compromise with the government on disputed labor reforms, a leading umbrella labor union on Tuesday declared its withdrawal from the labor-management-government trilateral deal, ending a brief four-month truce.
The Federation of Korean Trade Unions said Tuesday that it would no longer acknowledge the tripartite agreement, which had long been opposed by the laborers for allegedly deepening labor instability and employers’ power abuse.
FKTU chairman Kim Dong-man speaks at a news conference on Tuesday. Yonhap
“The government and the ruling party have trampled on the Sept. 15 trilateral agreement, making it null,” FKTU chairman Kim Dong-man said in a press conference.
“We will henceforth renounce all efforts of negotiation and boycott the tripartite committee meeting.”
With the FKTU’s declaration, the confrontation surrounding the labor-related bills is expected to escalate as the presidential office and the ruling party brace for an all-out war against the labor unions and the opposition camp.
The Sept. 15 deal, or the “grand compromise,” refers to the trilateral deal signed last year by the labor, management and government representatives to come up with long-term measures to improve the nation’s labor market. They include allowing companies to change employment guidelines and adopting a “peak wage” system upon further consultation.
Despite the epochal agreement, follow-up consultations have not run smoothly, with the labor side delaying discussion and the government unilaterally releasing measures.
The union chairman pledged to file an injunction or an unconstitutionality suit against the government’s labor guidelines and to conduct campaigns against ruling party candidates in the upcoming April parliamentary elections.
The union will thus join the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a more progressive labor organization which has all along been protesting against the disputed labor bills.
“The FKTU, by announcing its withdrawal from the trilateral deal, has declared to fight back the government’s retrogressive labor policies,” said KCTU spokesperson Park Seong-sik.
“It seems that the two unions may possibly join forces and form a solidarity.”
At the face of the disintegration of the three-way agreement, President Park Geun-hye reiterated her calls for the passage of the controversial labor bills.
“Companies, whether conglomerates or small and medium-sized enterprises, have repeatedly appealed for the passage of the pending bills, but the National Assembly has neglected their needs,” Park said at the Cabinet meeting.
She thereby urged the nation to participate in a petition campaign led by economic organizations, which she referred to as a last resort to save the economy and boost employment.
“Would these businessmen and people have rushed out to the streets on this severe winter day (for the petition) if not for these pressing situations?”
The president joined the petition campaign Monday after receiving the annual business reports and before delivering her New Year’s greeting to the Korea Federation of SMEs.
The Minjoo Party of Korea denounced the president for detouring due legislative procedure and siding with the conglomerates by joining their initiative.
“The president is entitled to extensive legal power, yet Park decided to sign a petition instead of communicating and debating the issue,” said the main opposition party’s policy committee chief Rep. Rhee Mok-hee.
“We hope that such a bewildering situation will not happen again during Park’s remaining two years in office.”
The ruling Saenuri Party echoed the president’s comments.
“The petition would never have been necessary if the National Assembly performed its role in the first place,” floor leader Rep. Won Yoo-chul told reporters Tuesday.
“Our party, too, is to be held responsible just as much as the opposition party.”
The presidential office shrugged off the opposition camp’s criticism.
“Signing the petition was a gesture of participating in the people’s initiative, not an act of disregard toward the legislature,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Jeong Yeon-guk told reporters.
Meanwhile, the government, the presidential house and the ruling party agreed Tuesday to make utmost efforts to pass the pending labor bills through parliament within January.
“The opposition camp is deterring key economic and labor reform bills by adding unessential requests,” said Saenuri floor leader Won at the policy adjustment meeting held at the prime minister’s office.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org