On February 18, the Economic, Social and Labor Council(ESLC) was to convene the first meeting of the 'working hour system improvement committee' to discuss the flexible working hour issue, but the meeting was delayed for a couple of hours.
Some 30 union officials of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions(KCTU) staged a picketing inside of the meeting venue and demanded to "stop discussion for the retrogressive revision of the flexible working hour system". Before withdrawing the picketing from the venue, they wanted to lodge their protest letter to the members of the committee. However, the committee chair Prof. Lee Cheol-soo refused to accept the protest letter from the KCTU. It took two hours to open the meeting until ESLC commissioner Park Tae-joo received the protest letter instead. The KCTU currently does not participate in the ESLC, a national-level social dialogue body in Korea, whereas the Federation of Korean Trade Unions(FKTU), another national labor union center, participates in the agenda deliberations organized by the ESLC.
The committee attempted to reach a tripartite agreement by the members representing labor, employers and the public interest in relation to the flexible working hour system, but it failed. The committee decided to extend the deadline of the deliberation for one more day until February 19.
Meanwhile, on the same day, KCTU president Kim Myung-hwan and leaders of its affiliated industrial unions held a press briefing in front of the National Assembly to declare its all-out outside struggle including a plan for general strikes and call for the ratification of fundamental ILO conventions and the halt to the retrogressive revision of the flexible working hour system.
On the second day of the extended meeting, the working hour system improvement committee finally reached a compromise agreement that concluded the extension of the unit period of the flexible working hour system from 3 months to 6 months for which employers consistently demanded the extension and the assurance of a break of not less than 11 consecutive hours between one working day and the next to ease the concerns of the labor circle about the excessive working hours. It was reported that the compromise agreement was coordinated between the Federation of Korean Trade Unions(FKTU) and the Korea Employers Federation(KEF).
All major labor issues such as the flexible working hour system, the minimum wage fixing machinery, and the institutional revisions in relation to the ratification of fundamental ILO conventions will be at the threshold this week, because they will be discussed in the ESLC, but the KCTU declared its struggle outside the ESLC.
reported by Kim Hak-tae & Kim Mi-young
translated by Kim Sung-jin
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