South Korea: The 6 AM Stealth Union Busting Bill

Lao Tse (
Tue, 31 Dec 1996 15:02:01 +0000 ()

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/** 319.0 **/ ** Topic: The 6 AM Stealth Union Busting Bill ** ** Written 2:58 PM Dec 28, 1996 by labornews in ** From: Institute for Global Communications <>

Car industry: South Korean carmakers hit by strikes over FRIDAY DECEMBER 27 1996 By Catherine Lee in Seoul

Striking workers closed South Korea's leading carmakers and several huge shipyards after the ruling party forced controversial laws on labour and the secret police through parliament yesterday.

President Kim Young Sam's ruling New Korea party, which has an absolute majority, went into the parliament building at 6am and passed 11 laws in just six minutes with no opposition deputies present.

The bills included measures that would allow companies to impose job cuts, so ending South Korea's life-long employment system. The leaders of the country's two labour organisations declared passage of the labour law "null and void" and urged their members to walk out.

Up to 150,000 workers at 100 companies responded immediately, halting production lines at Hyundai, Kia and Ssangyong group car plants and shutting two Hyundai shipyards and two others, according to the outlawed Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, which claims 500,000 members.

Economists warned of short-term damage to the economy. But analysts said the labour law would benefit the economy by allowing employers to boost competitiveness.

Yesterday's bills were also aimed at honouring South Korea's commitment to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the club of industrialised nations, to introduce a more flexible labour market. Another bill gives greater powers to the once-notorious Agency for National Security Planning, the country's version of the CIA.

Although the police say they will crack down on illegal strikes and arrest labour organisers, protests are likely to continue. The strike at Hyundai Motors alone is estimated to be costing about Won46bn (z33m), or 5,500 cars, in lost production daily.

The government apologised to the public for pushing through the bill. "I feel truly sorry for failing to settle the issues through dialogue and compromise with the opposition," Mr Lee Hong-koo, New Korea party chairman, said.

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