More unions abandoning KCTU

  • Published : Nov 28, 2010 - 18:52
  • Updated : Nov 28, 2010 - 18:52
A growing number of labor unions are breaking away from the radical Korean Confederation of Trade Unions ahead of the implementation of the multiple-unions system next July.

As more labor unions declare their intent to focus more on working conditions rather than political or ideological struggles, critics predicted, competition among labor unions is expected to become fiercer, bringing about a paradigm shift in the nation’s labor culture.

According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Sunday, a total of 21 labor unions and their 6,280 members have defected this year from the KCTU, the nation’s second-largest umbrella labor group.
Workers occupy roads to protest near the Hyundai Motor factory in Ulsan on Saturday.
(Yonhap News)

They include 12 groups from the Metal Workers’ Union, five from the Public Transportations’ Union, two from the Private Service Union, one from the Financial Industry Union and one of the Health and Medical Workers’ Union.

When more than one labor union is allowed to be set up at a single workplace next year, more member unions are expected to distance themselves from the KCTU’s political struggles, possibly triggering a domino effect on other members.

Following the massive withdrawals of key members such as Hyundai Heavy and KT in recent years, the KCTU is expected to be in less favorable position in its power struggle with the largest Federation of Korean Trade Unions.

“When the multiple-unions system is introduced next July, more labor unions will break away from the hard-line upper groups or go independent with support from employers. And these groups of labor unions are likely to grow into a new force in the labor culture,” said Choi Young-ki, research fellow at the Gyeonggi Research Institute.

The Metal Workers’ Union, which is affiliated with the KCTU, recently conducted a survey on 130 representatives from its 130 member unions.

In the survey, more than half of respondents said new labor unions will be established under the multiple-unions system. Of them, 25.8 percent said it would be within a year and 30.6 percent said within three.

Of their purpose, 36.6 percent said that new ones would be a management-friendly labor union, supported by the employer.

When a new labor union is about to be set up, 60.3 percent responded that the employer would win favor by offering financial support.

However, almost half the respondents, or 44.7 percent, said there would be fewer labor-management conflicts under the multiple-unions system, with 27.6 percent predicting more disputes.

By Lee Ji-yoon (