Monday, October 03, 2005

Whither Tripartism?

Judging from this recent Korea Herald article, it seems that the struggle against the governments attempt to "flexibilize" labor is still ongoing with no clear resolution in the future, but several possible trajectories. Currently the FKTU and the KCTU, Korea's two large labor confederations, are boycotting tripartite talks between management, government, and labor, demanding Labor Minister Kim Dae-Whan resign.

The article also reports that union leaders of the two federations said the government would "face increased troubles, including a general strike, if the government goes ahead with a set of measures pending at the National Assembly that would allow companies to expand the use of irregular workers."

At the moment labor groups are meeting with the prime minister Lee Hae-chan to get around the impasse. I'm not sure if the situation will continue like this or whether one will see a more gradual reincorporation of labor into the tripartite talks, but perhaps with a more unified voice both at the table -- in the form of a possible FKTU-KCTU merger?-- or in the streets, with more joint actions and protest -- something which has, indeed, picked up since last June. Both unions also boycotted an International Labor Organization regional conference which was scheduled to be held this month, but was cancelled when the groups withdrew.

Another set of issues that seem decidely off the table in triparte discussions are the work conditions for migrant workers, both documented and undocumented. Early this week, the Ministry of Labor announced their latest plans to curtail the use of undocumented workers and expand the use of permitted workers. However, their strategy looks certain to cause more social strife by giving employers incentive to help deport their own workers. The basic structure of the permit system, however, is not being altered in any fundamental way, so many of the problems that we have discussed previously on this blog are certain to continue (read more here).

For the full articles, continue reading.

Labor groups threaten to step up struggle

The nation's two labor umbrella groups threatened to heighten their struggle against government measures aimed to increase flexibility in the job market.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions reiterated that they would continue to boycott a tripartite dialogue table with the government and employers unless Labor Minister Kim Dae-whan resigns.

They said the government would face increased troubles, including a general strike, if the government goes ahead with a set of measures pending at the National Assembly that would allow companies to expand the use of irregular workers.

Their separate announcements came a day before their planned meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan today to discuss normalizing strained relations between the labor force and the government.

Representatives from the union groups said that they will convey their demands directly to the prime minister regarding the government's move to legislate a package of labor reforms.

The labor unions rejected dialogue with the government in July in protest against the labor-related bills.

Union groups said that today's meeting is aimed at seeking a new communication channel to the government since both groups have rejected Labor Minister Kim Dae-whan as a dialogue partner. Kim is expected to attend the meeting.

The meeting was proposed by the union groups when they asked President Roh Moo-hyun to become directly involved in resolving the confrontation between the government and the union community during a press conference held in August.

Labor unions expect today's meeting to be a turning point for both sides but said that it is hard to see how substantial changes mary occur unless the government changes its "anti-labor attitude."

Lee Yong-deuk, the FKTU and Union and Lee Soo-ho, the head of the KCTU reportedly had an urgent meeting on Sunday to organize one voice to tackle the government's labor policies and hamper possible disruption of the labor community.

The FKTU and KCTU have recently discussed a merger plan between the two major union groups to increase their bargaining power.

In a show of solidarity, the two groups have boycotted hosting an International Labor Organization conference which was scheduled to be held this month.

Korea Herald (2005.09.27)

Employers who make their illegal foreign workers voluntarily depart from Korea will be legitimately

ㅁThe Ministry of Labor will allow employers who make their illegal foreign workers voluntarily depart by the end of this year to newly employ as many foreign workers as they eject.
- The Ministry will also guarantee that illegal foreign workers receive no disadvantageous treatment when they are put on a roster of registered job seekers, if they voluntarily depart from Korea.

ㅁIf employers make their illegal foreign workers voluntarily depart from September 25 to December 31, 2005 and then submit a document confirming their departure issued by airports or harbors to an Employment Security Center when they apply for the issuance of employment permissions, they will be allowed to newly employ as many foreign workers as they eject.

* In this case, employers can hire the same number of new foreign workers as that of departed ones regardless of the number of foreign workers employed by a workplace.

○ However, replacement workforce will be supplied only to employers who receive employment permissions before the end of March 2006.

○ Employers who make their illegal foreign workers voluntarily depart during the special period will be exempted from fines and the restriction on issuance of visas to foreign workers will be lifted.

ㅁMeanwhile, illegal foreign workers who depart from Korea during the period under the guidance of employers will be exempted from fines and the period during which their re-entry to Korea is restricted will be shortened. Which is the same as what currently applies to illegal foreign workers voluntarily departing from Korea.

- If the foreign workers are those who came from the sending countries selected under the Employment Permit System, they will not be given any disadvantageous treatment in the process of registering themselves as job seekers.

ㅁUnder the previous measure to encourage the voluntary departure of legal foreign workers, which had been implemented between March and August this year, employers were entitled to be supplied with replacement workforce only when they made legal foreign workers voluntarily depart from Korea.

- However, the new measure is expected to reduce the number of illegal foreign workers and contribute to minimizing workforce vacancy in industrial sites by allowing employers who make illegal foreign workers voluntarily depart to be supplied with legal foreign workforce.

Ministry of Labor (2005.09.29


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