An industrial safety law aimed at better ensuring safe workplaces for irregular contract workers went into effect Thursday, after public anger heightened over the 2018 death of a young subcontract worker at a thermal power plant.
The Kim Yong-gyun bill was passed in December 2018, named after a 24-year-old subcontract worker killed in a conveyor belt accident at the power plant in Taean, about 150 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
His death has ignited public debate over the treatment of temporary workers at workplaces, bringing to the fore the issue of the outsourcing of high-risk work.
The act calls for employers to take measures to strengthen the safety of irregular, subcontract workers and mandates stiffer punishments in the event of accidents.
In principle, it bans the outsourcing risk work, such as plating and processing of mercury, lead and cadmium.
The law stipulates that those who place contract orders should take bigger responsibility in case of accidents facing sub-contract workers.
Employers who breach safety duty could face a prison term up to three years and the maximum of 30 million won ($25,900) in fines, up from the previous punishment of up to a 1 year jail term and 10 million won in fines.
But the management and labor sectors are still divided over whether the law would serve its purpose.
The business sector expressed concerns the law mandates excessive responsibility for business owners in case of accidents, slamming the law as too centered on punishment.
The labor circle said the law still lacks enough tools to ensure the safety of sub-contractor workers.
"We are voicing concerns the law will take effect, without reflecting the opinions of workers," the Federation of Korean Trade Unions said in a statement Wednesday.
The labor sector called on the government to accept recommendations by the National Human Rights Commission to protect workers doing outsourcing jobs.
In November 2019, the commission issued recommendations that call for banning the expansion of the scope of outsourcing work and guaranteeing basic labor rights for such workers. (Yonhap)