At Myungsung Transportation, a bus company in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, nearly 100 bus drivers have submitted their resignation over the past three months, amid concerns that their actual income will drop once the flexible working hour system takes effect next month to abide by the reduced legal working hours. Some drivers hope to leave and land another job after hurriedly receiving their severance pay before their salary gets cut. Currently in a month’s salary, the amount drivers get as extra pays is greater than the basic salary. If the flexible working hours system comes into effect, extra works are calculated into basic work hours, possibly cutting drivers’ salary and even further after July next year when the 52-hour work law takes effect.
Such scenarios are not confined to bus drivers. The new system has provoked an outcry from employees working in the food industry and small and medium-sized businesses. Restaurants are experiencing the impact of the legal working hours cut, as companies are increasingly reluctant to have get-togethers. Double affected by the minimum wage hike, more employers are also cutting their employees’ work hours or laying them off. In fact, it has been revealed that while the hourly wage of a temporary worker at a small restaurant with five to nine employees rose by 8.6 percent year on year, the total amount of their monthly income fell by 5.9 percent.
What the government had in mind when it pushed ahead with the policy of cutting working hours despite fierce opposition was to reduce people’s work hours, the highest among OECD member countries, and guarantee them “a life with an evening.” The government might have also expected that the policy would lead to an increase in employment. Yet, there is no reason to believe that businesses, which already find it difficult to dismiss employees even during an economic recession, will hire more workers. As a result, the new policy will only cut workers’ actual income, not bringing about a rise in job openings.
The National Assembly Budget Office has predicted that 12 percent of all workers will see their salary cut due to reduced working hours. Those who are the most affected will be non-regular employees and low-income workers, who are usually vulnerable in terms of job security and highly dependent on extra pays. This is why workers say that the new policy will invite not “a life with an evening,” but “a life with no bread for an evening.” It is nothing but a paradox that the government’s labor-friendly policy, born without sincere communication with workers, is rather threatening the life of workers. The Ministry of Employment and Labor, however, is only repeatedly saying that it will “first implement the policy and later make adjustments when needed,” not providing any countermeasures. How incompetent and lamentable is such an attitude?