President Park Geun-hye requested representatives of labor and management on Monday to compromise on contentious labor issues through dialogue, stressing that a stable relationship between the two was crucial for the nation’s economic growth.
“As the stage for dialogue has been reset after a difficult time, (I hope to see) the labor and the management find a way of co-existing through concession and compromise in order to offer an opportunity for the nation’s economic growth,” Park said in a meeting with representatives of a tripartite commission at her office.
The panel titled, Economic and Social Development Commission, is a consultative body formed of representatives of labor, management and the government.
The meeting was held to congratulate the resumption of dialogue among the three parties and the return of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, one of the two major union umbrella groups, to the panel.
The operation of the panel has been stalled since the police raid in December, on the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, another major union umbrella group, to detain the railway unionists. FKTU then quit the panel in protest against the police crackdown.
With the panel resuming the dialogue, the three parties are expected to bring a series of conflicting labor issues including “ordinary wages,” plans to reduce working hours and extension of the retirement age, to the negotiation table.
A landmark Supreme Court ruling in December sparked disputes over the scope of ordinary wages. The ruling ordered that regular bonuses be classified as part of ordinary wages. It was expected to put a significant financial burden on companies that were not including bonuses as ordinary pay.
To this, President Park reiterated that labor and management should build mutual trust first and seek ways to coexist for a shared goal of the nation’s economic growth. She also asked representatives to show their leadership to achieve a grand bargain in the negotiations, not only for the benefits of the labor and the management but also for the entire nation.
“The nation’s economy is facing many structural problems including jobless recovery, labor market polarization and an aging society, and we are standing at a crossroads,” she said.
“In order to get through an economic crisis, we need to build a labor-management relationship based on (principle of) coexistence that would create more quality jobs, narrow the gap between regular and irregular jobs and establish a virtuous circle of growth, employment and welfare,” the president added.
Her remark came amid growing concerns over labor disputes in the financial sector. About 100,000 unionized workers from 37 financial companies are set to launch a strike on Wednesday in protest of government’s plans to reform the sector.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)