Corea, República de - Multiple unions welcomed, but unions express concern about impact of single bargaining channel on minority unions (2012)

On 1 July, a new law went into force which allows multiple labour unions at a single workplace. The law was first enacted in 1997, but had been postponed for a decade. Under the revised law, only two people are needed to form a trade union. Supporters see the law as a means of improving worker’s rights to establish trade unions at enterprises that had established pro-management unions, or enterprises which had previously banned unions. Both Samsung and POSCO have maintained a “no labour union” policy so far by establishing a pro-management, or “ghost” labour unions, thereby blocking the creation of the real ones. The ministry expects 400 to 500 new unions to be founded over the next 12 months, adding to the total in 2009 of 4,689.

However, the requirement to establish a single bargaining channel faced strong opposition from FKTU and KCTU. Under the new system, workers can establish up to two or more trade unions at the enterprise level. It remains possible for multiple unions to bargain separately with the employer – only if the employer agrees, which is viewed as unlikely. In most cases, unions will have to determine a representative trade union to conduct bargaining with the employer. If multiple unions fail to establish a single bargaining channel on their own, the trade union composed of a majority of workers (including a union delegated authority by an alliance with smaller unions) would be the representative union. If there is no majority union, the multiple unions need to create a joint bargaining team in which they all participate. Unions are opposing the requirement to establish a single bargaining channel, arguing that it will restrict minority trade unions’ bargaining rights.

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