Published : 2013-02-27 20:21
Updated : 2013-02-27 20:21
The government and the left-leaning Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union are on a collision course over the union’s charter that accepts dismissed teachers as members.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor recently told the union that it would be outlawed unless it amended the charter, which runs afoul of labor law.
The Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act states that an organization will not be regarded as a trade union if it allows those who are not workers to join it.
The teachers’ union has some 20 dismissed teachers as members.
It is not the first time that the ministry has told the union to revise the controversial charter. It did so in 2010 and 2012. But the union ignored the ministry’s warnings, saying that it would decide the qualification of members on its own.
Denouncing the ministry’s latest move as an act of labor repression, the powerful union, which has some 55,000 members, declared it would fight for a revision of the law.
At the same time, it has decided to file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission.
It argues that banning unions from accepting unfairly dismissed workers as members possibly violates the Constitution as it infringes upon human rights.
The union retains the 20 dismissed teachers as members to provide them with financial support, which they need to eke out a living.
Under these circumstances, the ministry’s move, it claims, amounts to excessive use of administrative power that goes against the principle of proportionality.
Yet the union needs to heed the case of the Korean Government Employees’ Union. The ministry stripped the organization of its union status in 2009 on the grounds that it had allowed fired public officials to join it.
The organization filed a suit to nullify the ministry’s decision but lost the case in the first and second trials. The final trial is under way.
Even if the teachers’ union is outlawed, it does not mean its disbandment. But it would become an outsider union and lose its legal rights, such as the right to collectively bargain with the government. It would also no longer be entitled to office rental subsidies provided by the government.
The union may feel it is just not right to oust former teachers who were dismissed for what it views as unjustifiable reasons. But it should follow the current law as long as the Constitutional Court does not rule it unconstitutional. Any attempt to defy it would simply jeopardize its legal status.