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[Editorial] Fixed on labor side

Additional overtime work system at risk of being banned from next year

In Korea, the workweek is 52 hours. Many workers work 40 hours a week. Overtime work cannot exceed 12 hours a week.

Only small businesses with 29 or fewer employees can add eight hours of overtime work a week if labor and management agree to do so.

The additional overtime system was introduced in 2018 to ease a chronic shortage of workers at small businesses. It is a sunset provision set to expire at the end of this year.

Considering the difficulties small businesses will face after the provision expires, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration proposed a bill to extend the system by two years to the end of 2024.

But the majority opposition Democratic Party of Korea is not in favor of the extension of the additional overtime system. It says that the bill goes against the purpose of the 52-hour workweek introduced by the administration of President Moon Jae-in when it was the ruling party.

It refuses to submit the government plan to the bill deliberation subcommittee of the Environment and Labor Committee of the National Assembly.

The regular session of the parliament will end on Dec. 9, so it is unlikely that the bill will be processed before the end of this year.

If the amendment falls through, it will be illegal from next year to add eight hours of overtime a week.

If additional overtime work is banned, small businesses will have to hire more workers when they have extra work to do. But most of them cannot afford to do so. For them, it would be affordable to pay additional overtime rather than to increase employment.

Small businesses complain that if additional overtime work is not allowed, they may fail to meet delivery dates when orders rush in temporarily so they may lose customers.

Furthermore, some small business workers want to earn more by working more overtime. It is reasonable to give them a choice to do so.

Sixteen trade groups representing small and medium-sized businesses on Monday appealed to the National Assembly to process the bill.

But the Democratic Party has turned a deaf ear to them.

The party says it places top priority on the livelihoods of the working class, but it acts differently.

Meanwhile, it is pushing an amendment to the Labor Union Act, called the "yellow envelope bill" and a bill that perpetuates the "safe freight rates system" for cargo trucks.

The majority party introduced the yellow envelope bill to the bill deliberation subcommittee of the Environment and Labor Committee.

The amendment exempts workers and unions from the liability of compensating businesses for damage caused by their illegal strikes.

Six business lobbies on Monday appealed to lawmakers to stop deliberating the bill that is likely to incite illegal strikes, but the party continues to not listen.

On the back of its large majority, the Democratic Party unilaterally presented the bill on the freight rates system to the bill deliberation subcommittee of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee.

The system was introduced as a three-year sunset provision to guarantee the minimum shipping charge for the sake of safe driving. It is set to be terminated at the end of this year. The system is a sort of special favor for cargo truckers, but it is questionable if the system actually contributed to the safety of drivers. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Cargo Truckers Solidarity are currently holding a strike demanding the perpetuation of the system.

Though their strike is causing huge losses to the national economy, the Democratic Party is turning a blind eye to it and is pushing the bills the labor group wants to be enacted. The party is doing so probably because the confederation is one of its important support bases.

Also, the party opposes government plans to reduce corporate taxes and business inheritance taxes. They argue that the plans only benefit the rich.

The Democratic Party seems to be determined to harass businesses. It won't budge a bit from the labor side.

By Korea Herald (