“A political battle rather than the rights and interests of members”
Approved with 66.9% of the union vote this month
The Posco Branch, one of the two largest trade unions at Posco, is in the process of leaving the Metal Union of the National Federation of Democratic Trade Unions. This is due to widespread dissatisfaction that the metal union ignores improving the rights and interests of POSCO workers and only collects union fees.
According to the steel industry on the 29th, the Pohang branch of the metal union, the Pohang branch, has been holding a member vote to withdraw from the metal union since the 28th. It is a vote on the agenda of converting an organization in the form of a branch of the metal union, an industrial union, into a corporate union. The voting will be held until the 30th, and the results will be released on the same day. If a majority of the 264 union members attend and two-thirds of the attendees vote in favor, the bill is passed. This is the second time the POSCO branch has voted to leave the metal union. On the 3rd and 4th, as a result of voting for and against withdrawing union members, the agenda was passed with 66.9% in favour. However, a higher-level organization, the Metalworkers’ Union, raised an objection, which the Ministry of Employment and Labor accepted, and a second vote is being held.
The POSCO branch was confident of the approval. Through a statement of opinion, the branch said, “The metal union is making baseless claims that changing the organizational form is illegal,” and “the majority of POSCO union members are in favor of leaving.”
Posco Union “Korean Confederation of Trade Unions ignores typhoon damage… treats us like ATMs”
The metal union is well aware of the move to withdraw from the POSCO branch. This is because of the symbolism of POSCO, the largest steel manufacturer in Korea. The metal union’s official position is ‘no withdrawal’. This means that only individual withdrawal is possible according to the rules of the union, and collective withdrawal by the branch unit, which is a subsidiary organisation, is not possible.
The ‘discipline’ card is also actively used. In order to prevent a collective withdrawal, the union expelled the branch president, senior vice president, and secretary elected by POSCO union members, and also punished the representatives. An industry insider explained, “The purpose of initiating the disciplinary action against the representatives is to prevent the POSCO branch from reaching a quorum.”
○ “The branch is not a metal union ATM”
The POSCO branch criticized in a recent statement that “the metal union wants the branch to work for and exist for the metal union.” It is argued that although the voting was carried out legally, the workers slandered the executive officers of the union who were elected directly by the workers, so as to punish them. One union member noted, “The metal union only sees the POSCO branch that pays union fees,” and “didn’t provide any support in recovering from the typhoon.”
The POSCO union was first formed in 1988, but was disbanded three years later in 1991 due to corruption by union officials. Then, in 2018, it was relaunched as a multiple union. The POSCO union, which belongs to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), and the POSCO branch, which belongs to the Korean Confederation of Democratic Trade Unions (KCTU), are active. The POSCO union affiliated with the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, with approximately 6,000 members, is the first union and has the right to collective bargaining. The POSCO branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which initially launched with about 3,300 members, is estimated to have shrunk to about 500 people by merging the Pohang and Gwangyang branches. This is based on the number of “check offs” where employers deduct union dues from wages and pay them to the union.
Regarding the number of union members, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is in the position that it should be calculated by including “secret union members” who pay union fees by cash payment or automatic transfer, etc., aware of the management side . In addition, while the management defines the POSCO branch as a strong union and systematically tries to ‘dissolve the union’, the union members claim that they are inevitably moving to another union.
Recently, the POSCO union and the POSCO branch have been actively involved in activities to attract members to increase the size of the organization.
○ Continued withdrawal from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Comments are raised that if the resignation of the POSCO branch becomes a reality, unions in other industries may withdraw from the KCTU industrial union one after the other. In October last year, GS E&C and Ssangyong E&C withdrew from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions construction company union, and in April, the Financial Supervisory Service union announced it was withdrawing from the office’s finance union. The Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Prime Minister’s Union, the largest branch of the metal union, also tried to withdraw from the metal union Confederation of Korean Trade Unions last July. At the time, the Daewoo Shipbuilding union, fed up with the subcontracting union’s 51-day strike, held a union member vote to ask for or against leaving the union, feeling a sense of crisis that it could be destroyed. The approval rate for the withdrawal was 52.7%, and although it was rejected with less than two-thirds of attendees voting, the response from union members was so high that more than half of the votes were party.
According to the Ministry of Employment and Labour, as of 2020, 1,134,000 workers have joined the KCTU. This equates to 40.4% of all unionized workers. It is just behind the Korean Federation of Trade Unions (1,154,000, 41.1%). Labor circles explain that many workers of the MZ generation (millennials + generation Z) have animosity towards the KCTU.
An official in charge of labor affairs in a conglomerate said, “The MZ generation has a strong perception that the company should distribute shares fairly according to performance, advocating the principle of thorough performance.” he noted
Reporter Kang Kyung-min/Kwak Yong-hee [email protected]