More But Shorter Strikes Hit Businesses Last Year

  • By Gwak Rae-geon

    January 10, 2020 14:26

    Production loss from labor strikes was at a historic low last year as workers went on strike more than usual but for shorter periods thanks to unions at major conglomerates helping mitigate a trade row with Japan.

    Vice Minister of Employment and Labor Im Seo-jeong told reporters Thursday that businesses lost 402,000 workers' days in 2019, down 27.9 percent on-year and the lowest in 20 years.

    The number of lost work days has been on the decline since the Moon Jae-in administration came to power, falling from 862,000 in 2017 to 552,000 in 2018. "There was an understanding that long-term strikes are bad for both management and labor," a ministry spokesman said. "Unions at conglomerates restrained themselves amid the trade dispute with Japan last year."

    Another factor was that labor and management at Hyundai unusually reached a settlement in wage negotiations last September without the ritual strike, the first time in eight years.

    But overall, workers went on strike on 141 occasions last year, up 5.2 percent on-year. The overall number of lost work days dwindled as a result of fewer strikes at conglomerates with large numbers of union members, despite more strikes on the whole.

    Still, labor relations remain more confrontational than in other advanced countries. According to a recent data from the Korea Labor Institute, Korea lost 43.2 work days per 1,000 workers in 2017, compared to a mere 0.25 days in Japan and 3.1 days in the U.S.

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