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S. Korea to allow companies to fire 'noticeably' underperforming workers

All News 16:12 January 22, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- The government announced Friday contentious labor guidelines as part of its efforts to make the rigid labor market more flexible and help revitalize the sagging economy.

The guidelines finalized and released by the Ministry of Labor and Employment ease restrictions for employers to fire "noticeably" underperforming workers and allow companies to change employment rules more easily.

Labor representatives strongly voiced opposition to the move, saying that the government policy would make it easier for employers to dismiss workers and worsen labor conditions for them.

"I want to make sure that the two guidelines are not easy dismissals or unilateral wage cuts," Labor Minister Lee Ki-kweon told a press briefing, adding that easing rules are vital to changing the labor market based on performance.

Under the current labor law, companies can terminate an employee's contract only when they are either involved in corruption or an embezzlement case, or when they have to lay off workers due to serious financial difficulties.

The ministry now stipulates that "lack of ability to do the job or poor job performance that burdens co-workers in extremely exceptional cases" are additional reasons for dismissal.

The government also attached conditions such as a fair evaluation based on objective and reasonable standards and chances given to the employees for improvement by training or relocation to prevent companies from abusing the government guidelines in order for the companies to sack the employees.

Companies will be able to amend their employment rules, such as those for recruitment and dismissal, without consent from workers, according to the new guidelines.

Currently, management must first get consent from labor unions to change the rules in a way unfavorable to the employees.

The ministry said that the management can make changes based on "reasons that are generally accepted ideas in society."

The labor circle strongly opposed the decision, saying that the government unilaterally drew up the guidelines.

"It is clear that the government does not have the intention to abide by a tripartite agreement by finalizing the two guidelines," the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), which represents labor in the trilateral talks, said.

The FKTU argued that the government breached the deal made on Sept. 15 in which labor, management and the government agreed to have full discussions before finalizing any reform measures.

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


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