Members of labor unions sit in a corridor of the National Labor Relations Commission during the special committee meeting to decide new regulations for paid time off for union activities, April 30.
Time off allotted for union activities receives drastic cuts
: The measures are expected to result in significant reductions in the number of full-time unionists in the workplace
May 3, 2010
A committee of South Korean labor, management and government representatives has made the decision to drastically cut the time off granted to conduct paid union activities, leading to both a protest from major umbrella unions and a call for the measures to be annulled.
The committee convened a meeting on April 30 at the National Labor Relations Commission office in Seoul’s Mapo district. After fierce debate that lasted until 3 a.m. the next morning, Labor Day, a decision was reached over the time-off limit. The limit grants workplaces with 49 unionists or less 1 thousand hours of paid time-off for union activities, which would account for 0.5 full-time unionists, while those with 99 or less were granted 2 thousand hours. This means that for workplaces with 50-99 union members that have full-time unionists, only one is eligible for paid time-off, while the other officials would not receive salaries if they engage in union activities during work hours.
With this decision, the number of full-time unionists will unavoidably shrink at large workplaces. The committee set for workplaces with 15 thousand unionists or more 28 thousand hours through the end of June 2012, and an extra 2 thousand hours for every additional 3 thousand members, with a limit set at 36 thousand hours. In the case of the Hyundai Motor branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), which currently has about 220 full-time unionists out of 45 thousand members, it would have to lower that number to 18 starting in July 2012. That would comprise 8 percent of the current full-time unionists. The committee said it applied the principle of being generous to those at the bottom and tighter with those at the top, based on union membership numbers.
Both major umbrella unions are strongly protesting the measures, claiming there were procedural problems in the decision and voting process. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) called on the committee to immediately annul the railroaded vote and apologize. KCTU said it would apply for an injunction and launch a struggle to amend the laws invalidate the system.
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