Korea Herald 12/18/99

Gov't to submit revision bills on union leaders' payment

Hoping to end weeks of dispute between labor and management groups, the government has drafted a set of bills that would allow employers to pay the salaries of full-time union representatives, administration officials said yesterday.

The revised bills, which will be submitted to the parliament before the year ends, retain in principle the ban on paying wages to officials for their full-time union activity. However, employers will be able to decide on their own whether to pay union leaders starting in 2002.

The proposed revisions modify the current labor law, which subjects employers who pay the wages of full-time union leaders to imprisonment or fines starting in 2002.

The bills, however, will ban workers from mounting labor disputes for the purpose of forcing management to pay full-time union officials.

The government said it has not yet decided what limits will be put on the number of full-time union officials, another major point of labor-management contention. It said it will defer discussion on that matter until after presidential decrees of laws are made.

The bills will be presented to the National Assembly after they are made public on Monday and examined by the cabinet Dec. 28.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), Korea's largest trade union, proceeded with its planned four-hour walkout yesterday ahead of a general strike scheduled for Dec. 23.

The actual turnout for the action was much lower than the umbrella labor group predicted.

Workers from less than 30 work sites, many of them union leaders, participated, compared to the 877 firms the umbrella labor group had said would join the walkout.

The FKTU, which has over one million members, and the rival Korean Confederation of Trade Unions have recently stepped up struggles to protest government-led restructuring and demand more labor rights.

At the center of the dispute have been their demands that firms be given full autonomy to pay salaries to union leaders and that work hours be reduced from the current 44 hours a week to 40.

Updated: 12/18/1999
by Kim Min-hee Staff reporter