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issue 33 news and updates
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The bill on public officials' unions has passed through the National Assembly and is due to enter into force from 2006.

 

The Bill on the Establishment and Operation, etc. of Public Officials' Trade Unions passed through the National Assembly on December 31, 2004.
The bill will be promulgated early this year and enter into force from 2006 after one-year grace period.
Up until now, public officials, other than public servants classified as field workers, have been prohibited from being involved in labor movements. Given this, this move to guarantee general public officials basic labor rights, which comes after allowing teachers' trade unions in 1999, can be seen as a great progress.
Now that the legislation process has been finalized, we have come to lay the legal foundation for allowing public officials to improve their rights and interests, such as working conditions, through trade union activities.
With the passage of the bill, public officials can now engage in trade union activities within the boundary of laws. The government and its employees will work together to ensure that public officials' trade union activities can contribute to promoting welfare for the nation as a whole by enhancing transparency and democracy in a society of public servants and improving the quality of administrative service.

[Reference]
Major contents of the Act on the Establishment and Operation, etc. of Public Officials' Trade Unions

(1) The extent to which basic labor rights are guaranteed to public officials
The right to organize a trade union, and the right to collective bargaining (including the right to conclude collective agreements) are guaranteed. But the right to collective action (right to strike) is not recognized.
Public officials should not commit acts and engage in political activities in contravention of their duties prescribed in other laws when doing union activities.
(2) The scope of public officials eligible to join a trade union
The scope includes general public officials with grade six or lower, and any equivalent specific and contract public officials and technical and temporary public officials.
However, the following categories of public officials are restricted from joining a trade union due to the nature of their jobs. (Detailed matters are prescribed by the Presidential Decree.)
► public officials who exercise the right to direct and supervise other public officials and are responsible for generally managing affairs for other public officials
► public officials who perform jobs related to personnel and remuneration, so that they are placed in the position of administrative agencies when they have relations with public officials' trade unions
► public officials who are engaged in correction or investigation work and other similar work
► public officials whose jobs, such as mediating and inspecting industrial relations, are incompatible with their status as a trade union member Special public officials (military personnel, policemen, firefighters, diplomats, etc.), politically appointed public officials (ministers, vice ministers, etc.) and public officials with grade five or higher are not allowed to join a trade union.
(3) Organizing unit
With the following organizations as minimum organizing units, a trade union can be established : the National Assembly, courts, the Constitutional Court, the National Election Commission, the Administration, local governments and local education offices of special metropolitan city, metropolitan city and province.
* This means that only minimum limits are set to the unit in which a union can be established.
(4) Matters subject to negotiation
Representatives of a trade union can negotiate and make collective agreements with their government counterparts over matters concerning trade unions or union members' pay, welfare and other working conditions.
However, matters concerning policy decisions made under the authority of the state or local governments, and matters concerning management and operation, such as the exercising of the right to appointment, but not directly related to working conditions are excluded from negotiation.

(5) Negotiators representing the government
The administrative head of each constitutional organization, the secretary general of the National Assembly, the administrator of each court, the secretary general of the Constitutional Court, the secretary general of the National Election Commission, the Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the head of each local government and the head of each local education office are considered negotiators representing the government.
Negotiators representing the government can only accept negotiations over the matters that they have the authority to deal with and decide according to laws.
(6) Negotiation procedures
A public officials' trade union organizes a negotiating group composed of its representatives or members.
If there are two or more trade unions demanding to negotiate with the government's representatives, they should be united into a single bargaining channel following the procedures prescribed by the Presidential Decree.
(7) Effectiveness of collective agreements
Unlike in the private sector, working conditions for public officials are determined and affected by laws and budgets. Therefore, the effect of matters agreed upon as a result of collective bargaining can be hardly made to prevail that of laws and budgets.
Accordingly, if some contents of collective agreements are stipulated in laws, regulations and budgets, they are considered ineffective. But compliance with what is agreed upon is guaranteed by ensuring that the government's representatives carry out the contents in good faith.
(8) Ban on industrial action
Given the nature of their job as servants to the nation as a whole, industrial actions by public officials could interrupt administrative services, paralyze national functions and inflict damages to people.
Therefore, public officials' trade unions and their members are prohibited from conducting any activities, such as strikes, slowdown, etc. that may undermine normal operation.
(9) Mediation in labor disputes involving public officials
In an effort to mediate and arbitrate their industrial relations in a fair manner, the "Public Officials' Labor Relations Mediation Committee" is set up under the National Labor Relations Commission and members dedicated to the Committee are appointed.
(10) Full-time union officials
A trade union member can work full-time for his/her union with the consent of a person who has the authority to appoint him. The period during which he/she works full-time for his/her union is considered unpaid leave and he/she should not be given any unfavorable treatment on the grounds of his/her status as full-time union official.
(11) Guaranteeing public officials to engage in legal union activities
In order to secure the effectiveness of guaranteeing public officials basic labor rights, any unfavorable treatment given on the grounds of union activities considered justifiable is banned according to the provisions on unfair labor practices in trade union laws.
Public officials or public officials' trade unions are allowed to file a charge with a labor relations commission to remedy unfair labor practices but not subject to any penal provisions.
(12) Enforcement Date
The Act will take effect one year after its promulgation given the time needed to revise related laws and make other preparations.

Seoul Office:

3rd Fl. Hanggang Plaza Bldg., 74-14 Noyu-dong Kwangjin-gu Seoul, Korea

Tel. No. 82 (02) 462 3575, 3585, 5083, 5084

Fax No. 82 (02) 462 3875

Manila Office:

3rd Fl. Expocraft Bldg. 1008 Metropolitan Ave. Brgy. San Antonio, Makati City, Philippines

Tel : 63 (02) 898 3395, 3472 / 896 8709 / 897 1387, 1407

Fax : 63 (02) 898 3397