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Labor to decide on returning to 3-way talks on market reforms

Workers are expected to decide Tuesday whether to return to the trilateral negotiations on labor market reforms, with the government offering to mediate the long-stalled talks.

The three-way talks among labor, management and government had stalled, with the nation’s biggest trade union strongly protesting the plans to curb regulations to lay off underperforming regular workers and give employers more discretion to change recruitment guidelines without labor unions’ approval.


The government reportedly presented a toned-down proposal to the labor bloc on Sunday, three days ahead of the slated meeting of 52 key officials belonging to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions on Tuesday to decide whether to return to the negotiations.

The trade union has been refusing to even discuss the new layoff plan on the bargaining table, boycotting the talks unless the trilateral committee scraps the agenda from the negotiations.

In the government proposal, only symbolic statements for the easing of firing regulations and recruitment guidelines would be included, in an attempt to temper the controversial points to push ahead for an agreeable market reform that also include ordinary wages, working hours and an extension of the retirement age.

The suggestion came over a week after Kim Dae-hwan, head of a tripartite committee of government, labor and management, returned to his post, pledging to resume the dialogue as soon as possible.

Kim had offered to resign in April, taking responsibility for the collapse of the trilateral talks on reforming the labor market.

The government’s stepped-up efforts to resume the talks comes in line with President Park Geun-hye’s campaign for labor market reforms to increase flexibility in what she calls a “rigid” labor market.

Park set labor reforms as the nation’s top priority in the second half of this year to help boost the nation’s sluggish economy and generate jobs for struggling youth.

If the labor bloc accepts the suggestion, the trilateral consultative body is expected to avoid contentious topics and to draw conclusions on agreeable items including ordinary pay, the wage peak system and protection for irregular workers.

“It is important to stick to a principle, but it is necessary to protect the labor bloc’s rights in the consultative body’s framework,” an FKTU official said, raising possibility of the union accepting the proposal.

However, the union itself is expected to face the daunting task of persuading its union bodies as some of the members including a trade union for metal workers vowed not to accept the suggestion.

The metal union is the biggest body under the FKTU with 130,000 members, allegedly retaining a great deal of organizing and leveraging power within the union. It pledged to block the union meeting from taking place Tuesday.

The labor union is scheduled to hold mass rallies across the nation to resist the government’s push for labor market reforms on Aug. 22.

By Ock Hyun-ju (
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Korea Herald daum