Blinded by their pursuit of short-term gains, businesses are putting up an organized opposition to moves to improve working conditions and promote fairer trade. The administration and political parties will have to guard against undue pressure from the business community, which is trying to discourage the revision of relevant laws.
On Friday, the five major business organizations banded together in accusing President Park Geun-hye’s administration and the political community of attempting “to strangulate big businesses,” claiming that revision bills under consideration would dampen what they called normal business activities. The organizations included the Federation of Korean Industries, a lobby for large corporations, and the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
True, not all bills being debated are worth considering. Among them is a bill designed to give favors in employment to those women who wish to work again after taking time off for pregnancy, childbirth or child care. A more worthwhile alternative would be to give a longer period of maternity leave.
But what is wrong with a move to promote fairer trade by tightening rules on business transactions, for instance, between an affiliate of a business group under the control of a business tycoon and a private corporation established by the tycoon’s spouse or child? But the business community claims it would even hamper corporations in conducting normal business operations, if the Fair Trade Act is revised in the way its revision bill is written.
Another target of attack is a proposal to introduce substitute holidays. It will incur additional costs to businesses if their workers are allowed to have a substitute holiday when a national holiday falls on a Sunday. But what they ignore is that Koreans work far more hours ― an average 2,116 hours per year ― than their OECD counterparts whose average working hours are 1,693. Is it really unreasonable for the administration to aim at cutting the working hours to 1,800 by 2020?
Moreover, substitute holidays, once introduced, will create jobs in the service industry and benefit businesses by encouraging consumer spending. But the process of writing substitute holidays into law is put on hold under pressure from the business community.
Another controversy involves a proposal to extend the retiring age to 60. Here, the business community has a legitimate demand that wages be made to peak at a certain age and decline thereafter before 60 is made the legal retirement age. It is necessary to change the seniority-based pay system.