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(LEAD) Umbrella union walks out of talks with gov't, management

All News 18:07 January 19, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major umbrella labor union declared Tuesday the breakdown of a trilateral deal on labor reform, citing the government's "unilateral" push for a plan to make the labor market more flexible.

It also said it will not participate in future talks with management and the government to address major labor issues.

Last month, the government announced draft guidelines to allow companies to formally sack underperforming employees and amend employment rules more easily even without consent from workers.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) that represents labor in the trilateral talks, however, has fiercely opposed the plan. It argued that the government drew up the guidelines unilaterally, breaching a deal made on Sept. 15 in which labor, management and the government agreed to have full discussions before releasing any reform measures.

Under the deal, the first in 17 years since 1998, the tripartite committee agreed to push for measures to facilitate the co-existence of small and large companies, improve non-regular workers' work conditions and increase the flexibility of the labor market.

"(We) declare the agreement null and void," Kim Dong-man, president of the FKTU said in a press conference held at the union's office in Yeouido, Seoul, adding that the government and the ruling Saenuri Party are responsible for the failure.

He said the union will continue its battle against the reform through lawsuits and the upcoming general elections in April.

Since the launch of the tripartite commission in 1998, the FKTU has declared the suspension of talks nine times, but Tuesday's declaration was the first of its kind in that the union absented itself after reaching an agreement.

Still, as the FKTU did not say it would completely withdraw from the commission, some say there is still a chance to resume the discussion down the road.

Under current labor law, companies can terminate employees' contracts only when they are either involved in corruption or an embezzlement case, or when the firm has to lay off workers due to serious financial difficulty.


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