Corea, República de - Unions by-passed during introduction of measures to reduce older workers’ pay

On 7 May 2015, the government announced a ‘recommendation’ for the introduction of a ‘wage peak’ system (which cuts the wages of older workers) in all public institutions. Those institutions that didn’t introduce the system would have pay increases lowered and be given lower scores in yearly management evaluations.

Because the introduction of the wage peak system has a negative impact on workers, by reducing their pay, both the law and collective bargaining agreements require employers to get approval from the representative union or the majority of employees (if the union doesn’t represent a majority) first. These provisions were violated in several cases.

The Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology and its affiliated Korea Polar Research Institute and the Korea Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering, collected individual consent forms from workers, but did not get agreement from the unions despite the fact that the unions represent a majority of the workers at these institutions. In several hospitals where the unions do not represent a majority of the workers, the wage peak system was introduced by the board of directors without seeking agreement from the majority of workers.

The unions felt that blame lay with both the government (Ministry of Strategy and Finance) and the heads of public institutions for forcing the introduction of the wage peak system through illegal means. The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) responded throughout 2015 with protest actions. The KPTU has also lodged legal complaints against individual public institutions with the Ministry of Labour, but the cases have been delayed.

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