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Ruling camp plans to expand welfare of low-wage workers

The government and the ruling party laid out a series of policies to provide unemployment insurance and national pension fees for low-income workers Friday in a bid to appease the working class ahead of Chuseok.

The GNP’s plan to raise the salary of irregular workers up to 80 percent of that of regular workers, however, met with disapproval from the government.

The special labor committee of the ruling Grand National Party and the Ministry of Employment and Labor established on Friday a set of measures for irregular and low-income workers.

According to the suggested guidelines, employers caught discriminating against regular and irregular workers will be ordered to make changes or face a fine.

Also, labor unions and corporations will have to include plans to improve for irregular workers’ employment conditions in their collective bargaining.

The plan to lift irregular workers’ pay from the current 57 percent up to 80 percent of that of regular workers, however, was opposed by the government which cited financial reasons, according to officials.

“In order to sustain development, it has become crucial to respond actively to the non-regular workers’ issue and to solve out the polarization of wealth and rights,” said Rep. Kim Sung-tae, chairman of the committee.

“The GNP will take the lead, as the ruling party, in urging the government to promote labor welfare policies and companies to abide by their social responsibility.”

The discrimination against irregular workers was suggested as an issue by Rep. Chung Doo-un in July while the party was leading heated debates over tuition cut plans.

The GNP’s pledge to support non-regular workers followed its university tuition cut plan on Thursday and the withdrawal of addition tax cut for the high-income bracket and corporations, all involving the even distribution of wealth.

Welfare-friendly moves by the GNP kicked off earlier this year, upon the rise of progressive groups. It was further fueled by President Lee Myung-bak, who suggested last month “mutual development” as the state’s key index.

They are also related to the upcoming races, including next month’s by-elections and next year’s general and presidential elections.

“We may not prepare for the big races without dealing with non-regular workers’ issues, which involve some 8 million people among the total electoral college,” said a party official.

The ruling party’s change of stance is reflected in the increased funds allocated to these projects, which amount up to trillions of won.

“The goal now is to sustain growth, not to accelerate it,” said Rep. Lee Ju-young, the party’s policy committee chairman.

“The social conflict resulting from irregular workers’ unstable employment conditions has now reached its climax.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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