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Labor panel head returns to talks

Kim Dae-hwan, who had offered to resign as head of a tripartite committee of government, labor and management, said Friday that he would return to his post to resume stalled talks on labor market reform.

“I will resume my role as head of the tripartite committee today,” he said in a press briefing held at a government complex in Seoul. “I will meet representatives from labor, management and government as soon as possible to resume the stalled dialogue.”

Kim Dae-hwan, a triartite committee of government, labor and management, speaks in a news briefing at government complex in Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)
Kim Dae-hwan, a triartite committee of government, labor and management, speaks in a news briefing at government complex in Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)

Kim tendered his resignation in April, taking responsibility for the collapse of the trilateral talks on reforming the labor market. But President Park Geun-hye did not accept the resignation.

Talks among labor, management and government failed in April after the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, one of two major labor umbrella groups, walked out of the negotiations in protest of the businesses‘ demand to ease criteria for firing underperforming workers.

The three parties have also locked horns over major issues including the “peak wage“ system.

With the official retirement age set to rise by two years to 60 next year, the government has pushed for adopting the peak wage system under which companies will extend workers‘ retirement age in return for gradually slashing their wages after a certain age.

But labor unions opposed the scheme, saying it would only give leeway to companies to reduce salaries without extending their retirement age.

The return of the panel head came a day after President Park persuaded him to take the job again Thursday. Park delivered a rare public address, vowing that she would press ahead with labor reform to create new jobs for struggling youths.

Setting the labor reform as the nation‘s top priority in the second half of this year, Park said the reform measures will help boost the nation’s faltering economy.

”The trilateral talks will continue in line with what has been discussed until April,“ Kim said, pledging to serve as a mediator to draw a conclusion that can satisfy all the relevant parties for a ”grand social compromise.“

Kim, however, is likely to face the daunting task of persuading the labor circle to return to the dialogue, with laborers refusing to discuss a few contentious agenda items at the negotiating table.

The trade unions have voiced concerns over the government‘s plan to curb regulations to hire and fire workers, saying that such a plan cannot be on the bargaining table in the first place.

The FTKU said earlier this month that it would boycott the talks unless the committee scraps the proposal.

Rival parties also remained at odds over Park’s labor reform initiatives.

The ruling Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung hailed Park, asking the labor bloc to make a “great” decision to return to the dialogue to achieve “harmony” between the young and old generations.

However, main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy chairman Moon Jae-in lashed out at Park for unfairly demanding labor to make sacrifices for reform agendas.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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