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Ruling party files constitutional suits to block 'yellow envelope bill' presented to plenary session

Politics 13:55 May 30, 2023

By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- The ruling People Power Party (PPP) on Tuesday filed constitutional suits seeking to block a pro-labor bill that was sent directly to a plenary National Assembly session last week without the completion of deliberations at the judiciary committee.

The main opposition Democratic Party and the minor opposition Justice Party referred the revision of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act, also known as a "yellow envelope bill," directly to the plenary session for a vote during a labor committee meeting boycotted by the ruling People Power Party.

The PPP has opposed the bill that restricts filing damage suits against striking workers.

By law, a parliamentary committee can send a bill directly to a plenary session for final approval with three-fifths support from its members if the judiciary committee takes no action for more than 60 days after taking over the bill.

The new labor bill passed through the labor committee in February, but it has since been pending in the judiciary committee chaired by the ruling party for nearly 90 days.

On Tuesday, PPP members filed petitions, claiming the direct referral of the bill violated the judiciary committee's right to deliberations on legislation and asking the Constitutional Court to suspend the validity of the referral until the court determines whether the referral was constitutional.

The revision guarantees the bargaining rights of indirectly employed workers and prohibits litigation for damages and provisional seizures against unionized workers with the aim of suppressing their strikes. This could make it difficult for employers to file complaints against illegal strikes by their workers and exempt laborers from liability for participating in illegal strikes.

The bill dates back to 2009, when unionized workers of carmaker SsangYong Motor Co. staged a high-profile strike to oppose a massive layoff. Five years later, the Supreme Court declared the strike illegal and ordered the workers to pay 4.7 billion won (US$3.6 million) in compensation to the company and the state.

A number of civic activists and citizens have since delivered yellow envelopes, each containing 47,000 won in donations, to support the SsangYong workers, raising the need to amend the trade union law in favor of striking workers. The revision has since been nicknamed the "yellow envelope bill."

Even if the bill is finally approved by the plenary session, President Yoon Suk Yeol can exercise his veto power.

Members of the parliamentary labor committee hold a meeting at the National Assembly on May 24, 2023. (Yonhap)

Members of the parliamentary labor committee hold a meeting at the National Assembly on May 24, 2023. (Yonhap)


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