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Strictly respond to illegal strike but continue dialogue
DECEMBER 23, 2013 00:22  
Over 5,000 policemen raided the office of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions (KFTU) Sunday. This is the first time for the government to exercise its authority to bust the federation뭩 office since the establishment of the KFTU in 1995. The police took over 100 KFTU members who obstructed its entrance to the office, and the federation staged a candlelight rally in protest of the government뭩 action.

The relations between labor and management have ended up being destroyed, and the KFTU should be held primarily responsible for such a result. The court also considered the rail workers strike illegal and issued arrest warrants for the union leaders. The KFTU office having used as their hideout is not a sanctuary. Given the federation obstructed the police in the course of law enforcement, its claim that the government뭩 raid on its office is oppression on the whole labor community is not convincing.

The Korail union has been continuing the strike for 15 days, the longest ever for the union. As a result, cargo trains services will drop to about 30 percent this week. As substitute workers get more exhausted, the safety of people using the rail service is also being threatened. If the government just let this happen, it will be a gross dereliction of duty. Whether to build a subsidiary company or a private company to run the new KTX service from Suseo-dong in the southern district of Seoul, is not an issue for the union to intervene in. Whether to bring competition into the KTX service sector, which currently generates considerable deficits, is a matter to be decided by the government and the Korail management.

Besides, the privatization of rail service that the Korail union has been using as a justification for the strike is different from the facts. The government has announced several times that no private capital will be allowed to participate in the Korail subsidiary to run the new KTX service from Suseo-dong. Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Seo Seung-hwan even announced a policy, through which the rail service license of the subsidiary would be cancelled if it was sold to a private company. The minister뭩 action seems a bit excessive because it deprives the next administration of a right to make its own decision of the company. In other words, the government took somewhat reckless measures to prove that it has no willing for privatization. Nevertheless, the rail workers union does not listen to the government and sticks to their false logics. Now, the strike cannot be justified.

In the meantime, the opposition Democratic Party encourages the union뭩 strike. The party has identified that 밷rining competition to the public sector is a trick for privatization, and criticized the government뭩 principle-based response to the illegal strike is based on 뱇ack of communication. Such a response is not a responsible attitude for the party that took power for 10 years. The ruling Saenuri Party should also reflect on what it has done until the labor-management relations reached the current state.

As for illegal strikes, formulating strict responses while not driving the two confronting parties, labor and management, to a blind alley is critical. The Park Geun-hye administration needs supports from the labor community in order to resolve challenges in the labor sector, such as issues regarding ordinary wage and increasing jobs based on work hours. It can hardly achieve the target employment of 70 percent while confronting the labor community. The role of politics is to resolve conflicts.

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