In fact, the labor board system of public institutions is an old promise. It was a promise made by President Moon Jae-in during his 2017 presidential campaign, and in the general election last year, the Korean Federation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Democratic Party of Korea formed a member of the National Assembly for Respect for Labor and it was a major agenda item. It was also decided by the main committee of the Economic, Social and Labor Committee, a social dialogue body. The amendment bill to the Act on the Management of Public Institutions (Public Institutions Management Act) that realizes the agreement of the Senior Citizens and Labor Council is currently pending in the Planning and Finance Committee of the National Assembly.
Kim Joo-young (61,Photo) As a proponent of the amendment bill, a member of the Democratic Party of Korea played a role as the chairman of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions in all these processes and as a member of the National Assembly for Respect for Labor in the Democratic Party of Korea.
“Law to prevent insolvency of public institutions due to wrong policies”
– Initiated the Public Institutions Management Act, which focuses on the introduction of the public sector labor director system. Why is the Labor Board System necessary?
“I joined KEPCO in 1986 and worked as a union for 28 years. Although he worked for a long time in the public sector, especially as the chairman of the National Electricity Union, he could not know the insides of the management part. As a union president, I have been interacting with unions around the world every year to learn about their labor board system. In France, labor directors accounted for a third of the board of directors. Taiwan, which does not differ politically and economically from Korea, has been using the labor director system since 20 years ago. Germany has a co-determination system in which workers’ representatives participate in the supervisory board. There have always been questions and concerns about why our country can’t do it. The amendment to the Public Institutions Management Act was created to systematically support the agreement of the Senior Citizens and Labor Council last year. We tried to include as much of the opinions as possible from the concerns of the field and the process of agreement with the Senior Citizens and Labor Council.”
In November of last year, the Public Institutions Committee, a committee by industry, reached an agreement on the sustainable development of public institutions. It contains the introduction of the labor director system in public institutions and the voluntary and step-by-step reorganization of the job-oriented wage system. There was a long way to go before the main committee passed. Labor and the government were in favor of it, but the business community was ultimately against it. In February of last year, the Sergeant and Labor Committee decided on a related agenda at the main committee, but 4 out of 5 employer members did not agree.
– How will the operation of public institutions change when the labor director system is introduced?
“It is possible to prevent cases where public corporations are forced to go into bankruptcy because they say it is a government policy. At the very least, minutes of the board of directors will be available to determine who is at fault. During the Lee Myung-bak administration, public enterprises were forced to go bankrupt due to overseas resource development. It is an issue that should be constantly reflected on. Had there been a labor director system, it would have been possible to look into who was in favor of volunteer diplomacy while ignoring the side effects, and with what logic. I believe that these check-in activities can help normalize public corporations, which are people’s property, to some extent. These are the changes that the labor board system will lead.”
– There is strong opposition from the business community. how do you see
“Conservative scholars and business circles are concerned that if the labor director system in public institutions is implemented, workers will interfere in management and sales and ruin the company’s management. It is a concern that arises from not knowing the basic labor relations. Labor-management relations are established through labor-management consultations. The board of directors initially tries to reach an agreement, but if an agreement is not reached, a decision is made by a majority vote. Labor directors alone cannot block the decisions of the board of directors.”
Rep. Kim Joo-young said, “The structure of pointing out workers as the cause of lax management has created a false perception.
“As I am in the public sector union, what I have observed is that when the government attacks the public sector, it always advocates the advancement and normalization of lax management and labor as the object of reform. It created a perception that unions were wrong. But no union wants their company to go bankrupt. It is the labor director system that makes both the company and the workers prosper.”
“The agreement between the parties is important, but we cannot wait.”
– The amendment to the Public Institutions Operation Act is still pending at the National Assembly Planning and Finance Committee. What is the situation?
“The People’s Power is still not submitting the list of members of the Agenda Mediation Committee. When presidential candidate Yoon Seok-yeol visited the Korea Federation of Trade Unions, he clearly expressed his opinion in favor of the introduction of a time-off system for civil servants and teachers and the labor director system in public institutions. He repeatedly said that the sense of partnership is important and hoped it would help rational management and prevention of insolvency. Nevertheless, not submitting the list of members is seen as unwilling to (process). We don’t know what’s going on, but in other words, what the Republican presidential candidate said could mean that he had no influence in the party.”
The debate on the public sector labor director system in the National Assembly quickly moved forward with the words of the major opposition presidential candidates. Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung visited the Korea Federation of Trade Unions on the 22nd of last month and said, “If the opposition party does not oppose or cooperate, it is necessary to quickly organize the public sector labor board system, even through the fast track.” Candidate Seok-Yeol Yoon also announced at the meeting of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions on the 15th of this month that “the introduction of public institutions has been positively accepted.”
– For what reason do the people’s power oppose the passage of the bill?
“The Power of the People has never expressed a clear opposition. However, it is considered that the position of the business world is taken into account. On the 20th of this month, representatives of the business community had an interview with Song Young-gil, leader of the Democratic Party, and Kim Do-eup, chairman of the People’s Power Policy Committee. They were concerned about the expansion of private enterprises. The same opinion would have been conveyed to the People’s Power. However, as I said earlier, the bill currently being discussed is the Public Institutions Management Act, which introduces a labor director system in the ‘public sector’. It is not a bill that applies the labor director system to private companies. In order to apply the labor director system to private companies, it is necessary to revise the Commercial Act.”
– Is there any possibility to deal with it alone? In the 2019 Special Committee on Political Reform, there is also a precedent for the ruling party to deal with the political reform bill ex officio when the opposition party took time without making a list of agenda coordinators.
“I think that the sole convening of the agenda coordination committee showed the will. The time limit for the agenda coordination committee is set at 90 days according to the National Assembly Act. Except for the power of the people, the list of members has already been formed. A bill can be passed alone by opening an agenda conciliation committee. We are waiting because an agreement is the best option. If even the part agreed upon in the Senior Citizenship cannot be made by law through agreement, the value of the existence of the Senior Citizenship is lost. But I don’t think there is much time left. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, they have a responsibility to take a clear stand and deal with it.”
– Is there a specific deadline?
“When the sun goes down, you will see it moving.”
“Policy to protect everyone who works,
Coordination has been completed, and I am worried about the timing of the announcement.”
Rep. Kim Joo-young is currently serving as the permanent co-chair of the Labor Relations Commission in the presidential election committee of the Democratic Party of Korea, Lee Jae-myung. It stands for a pan-labor election headquarters, joined by two major trade unions. The Labor Relations Commission will be officially launched next month and plan to announce labor policies and organize labor sites.
– The election is about 70 days away, and I can’t see any labor promises. It is also pointed out that the election is a ‘non-labor’ election of the People’s Power ‘anti-labor’ vs. the Democratic Party. Do you have any promises that are being prepared for presentation at the Senior Labor Relations Committee?
“We are preparing a policy to protect everyone who works. The policy has been coordinated. We are just looking at the release date. This is because future policy alliances and the timing of policy agreements must also be taken into account. There is a connection between labor policy and welfare policy, and since we need to see what kind of effect the policy will have when it is implemented together, we need to think about what level of announcement it will be. It will be announced as the election gets closer.”
At the end of the interview, Rep. Kim emphasized the significance of introducing the labor director system again, saying, “The labor director system is an unavoidable global trend.”
“ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) management is a hot topic. If you look at this year’s New Year’s address from the CEO of chaebol companies, ESG management is not left out. But there is no talk of governance. On January 21 last year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) presented the framework of governance, earth, people, and prosperity as a key indicator to compare ESG management levels. Chief among them was the governance structure. Diversity and stakeholder engagement across all races, genders and generations are set forth as governance principles. However, the framework of the World Economic Forum disappeared when it came to Korea. Was it because of the perception that the company belongs to the head of the company, and that management problems would arise from such a perception? Securing diversity in the governance structure and the labor director system are the trend. ESG management must be prepared from the public sector.”