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THE INVESTOR
October 23, 2019
Big Reunion

Economy

Moon’s labor policy put to test amid massive labor strikes

  • PUBLISHED :July 10, 2019 - 14:54
  • UPDATED :July 10, 2019 - 14:54
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The latest strikes by nonregular workers in the public sector have put the Moon Jae-in government’s labor policy -- including his iconic pledge on minimum wage hikes -- to the test, experts say.

Moon took office in May 2017 with a pledge to build a society that abides by labor standards and guarantees workers’ rights.


In his key labor pledges, Moon vowed to switch the status of non-regular workers in the public sector to that of regular employees and raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won ($8.47) per hour by 2020.

But the labor sector, which once vehemently supported the Moon government, has turned its back, claiming that Moon is not keeping his labor-friendly election pledges.

The latest joint protest by nonregular workers in the public sector reflected their frustration and anger at the government.

“Switching all nonregular posts in the public sector to regular ones is actually an unachievable goal. The government raised anticipation too high, drawing dissatisfaction from nonregular workers,” said Park Ji-soon, a professor at Korea University Law School.

Tens of thousands of such workers nationwide staged a three-day strike last week, calling for pay raises and the transition of their status to that of regular workers.

The bulk of the protesters were nonregular school workers, including cafeteria cooks and after-school daycare service assistants. Their stoppage resulted in a suspension of school lunch services.

Unionized postal workers had threatened to stage the first-ever nationwide strike on Tuesday. But they withdrew the plan at the last minute, avoiding potential disruption of postal and delivery services.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a major umbrella labor union group, meanwhile, warned of a general strike set for July 18 to protest what it calls the government‘s suppression of the labor sector.

“The gap between regular workers and nonregular employees has deepened, though Moon has pledged to abolish nonregular job posts,“ KCTU chief Kim Myeong-hwan, who was released on conditional bail following an arrest, said at the scene of the strike last week.

The president pledged to create hundreds of thousands of quality jobs in the public sector and vowed to turn all non-regular public job posts into regular, full-time positions during his five-year term.

But in reality, public firms are hiring contract workers on unlimited terms or switching nonregular workers to regular posts by sending them to affiliate companies. Their working conditions have not markedly improved.

By Ram Garikipati and newswires (ram@heraldcorp.com)

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