The nation`s two major umbrella labor groups yesterday agreed to stage a general strike if the government pushes ahead with bills that would permit multiple unions at the same company and ban wages for full-time unionists.
The agreement was announced after a meeting attended by group leaders from the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the more radical Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
It was the first time in five years that the two largest labor groups have made an agreement and declared it in public.
They decided to install a new consultative body and take aim at the multiple-union and full-time unionist proposal.
In line with the agreement, the two labor groups plan to hold a national labor convention on Nov. 7 and 8.
The 13-year-old controversial bills call for, among other things, allowing a single negotiation channel for a multiple unions system at individual companies and banning companies from paying wages to full-time employees in labor unions.
While the government has said it will go ahead with its original plan to implement the bills next January, the FKTU has claimed the change in the law could limit the activities of the group`s member unions, 88 percent of which are at small businesses with less than 300 employees.
In protest against the government`s firm stance, the FKTU on Oct. 15 pledged to stage a general strike in December and break its policy solidarity with the ruling Grand National Party, which was agreed on in 2007 with then presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak.
In apparent last ditch efforts to rebuild their strained relations, the GNP and the FKTU will meet next week, according to Rep. Kim Sung-jo, chief of the party`s policy committee.
Despite the labor groups` renewed threat of fighting together, the Ministry of Labor yesterday reiterated its existing position.
"The ministry will not enter a negotiation that is not based on the implementation of the bills," said a ministry official. "Because the agreement or the strike plan is discussed just among them, there`s no reason (for the government) to pay attention for now."
By Lee Ji-yoon