(ATTN: ADDS reaction from umbrella labor union in paras 7-8)
SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- Representatives from labor and management in South Korea agreed on Tuesday to revise the flexible work hours system to expand its application period, a presidential advisory council said.
The Economic, Social and Labor Council said the two sides agreed to expand the application period for the flexible work hours system, which allows companies to adjust working hours of employees in a lump-sum manner, to six months from the current three months. The council consists of representatives from labor, management, government and public interest groups.
The measure is aimed at lessening the burden of businesses in the wake of the cut in the maximum work hours to 52 hours a week.
Currently, businesses can adjust working hours of employees as long as the average hours in a three-month period do not exceed the legal limit so that employees can work longer hours when there is a lot of work and fewer hours when things are slower.
It marks the first expansion of the flexible work hours system in 16 years since the period was set to three months in 2003.
The latest agreement includes measures to prevent infringement of laborers' health rights or any possible reduction of their wages, according to the council.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of two umbrella labor organizations in the country, however, slammed the deal, calling it a "change for the worse."
The KCTU did not take part in the dialogue, expressing concerns that the revision could offset the effect of the reduced working hours.
The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae welcomed the agreement, saying that it hopes the revision to help the workweek reduction, which took effect in July, will fully take off.
"The government will put all-out efforts on follow-up measures to protect the precious agreement reached between the labor and management," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.
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