Press Briefing on the ‘Labor Policy Master Plan’
Date April 29th, 2015 | Venue Briefing Room, Seoul City Hall
It is a great pleasure to see you here today. Prior to the upcoming 125th celebration of May Day, I am announcing Seoul’s Labor Policy Master Plan, the “City of Respect for Labor.” For the Seoul administration, the word “labor” is still an unfamiliar and difficult topic. Nevertheless, I have decided that it is a critical responsibility for the Seoul administration and me to protect the labor rights of the citizens of Seoul and implement labor policies accordingly.
Let me tell you of the current state of labor, strategies to implement labor policies, and Seoul’s future. The first is our current state. Who are laborers? Look around you. We all are laborers. Your family, friends, journalists, and the staff of the spokesperson office are all laborers.
Even when we go for lunch, we will meet a good number of laborers. That is why Seoul should take a look at its labor environment. Many experts point out that the increase in labor quality contributes to the welfare of laborers as well as improving economic productivity in the long term. Experts also give a negative diagnosis on our current labor environment. What, then, is the current state of the labor market in Seoul? First, employment of the vulnerable, including women and senior citizens, is very unstable. In addition, the chronic practice of long working hours in unstable employment, which is not resolved, is choking our daily life.
The wage structure is polarized, and the ratio of small businesses is too high in the industrial structure. If life does not get better when you work hard, what should the municipal administration do to assist you? Contemplation on Seoul’s labor policies started here. Starting from contemplation, the master plan was set in four major directions as follows.
The first is to establish a labor policy model unique to Seoul through selection and concentration. The second is the cooperation of labor, corporations, the private sector, and the municipal administration, including labor unions, employer associations, the city council, and academia. The third is for Seoul to practice exemplary actions as an employer and to propagate its policies and visions through social consensus. The fourth is for Seoul to continuously implement the policies as a control tower for labor policy.
Even before today’s announcement of a Labor Policy Master Plan, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been building a way towards respect for labor step by step, identifying tasks and policies it can implement, as well as others it should implement.
We have been consistently making temporary positions permanent since 2012. In September of the same year, the Labor Policy Division was established, the first of its kind among local governments in Korea. This year, the living wage system was adopted for the first time in a metropolitan government. The metropolitan center Seoul Labor Right Center was opened, and the Labor Right Protection Committee was organized as well. So far, these are the phases of walking with labor. From today, we will expect Seoul to proceed and develop along with labor by integrating and improving Seoul’s attempts to respect its workers.
Seoul’s Labor Policy Master Plan was prepared based on the ordinance on Seoul labor rights protection and improvement. Since the Labor Policy Division was established, the ordinance was born through two and a half years of efforts in communication with as many people as possible. The framework of the direction and strategies of Seoul’s labor policy was prepared through eight meetings of the expert advisory TF. From June 2013 to present, 15 meetings were held to gather opinions from various areas such as labor unions and expert groups.
For example, after the listening to a policy debate in March this year, on April 10th, the first meeting of the Labor Rights Protection Committee was held with participation of labor unions, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Union, employer associations, youth, women, academia, and the central government. They consulted and deliberated on the Labor Policy Master Plan. “The City of Respect for Labor” is the result of that cooperation, which I consider to be the most meaningful.
Now, let me tell you about the basic policy strategies to put “the City of Respect for Labor” into practice. Seoul’s Labor Policy Master Plan is based on two policy objectives of labor rights protection and initiative as an exemplary employer and 11 key tasks under the final goal of “the City of Respect for Labor.” There are 61 detailed tasks. Briefly, it is to offer practical assistance to the vulnerable and to realize a culture and policy of respect for labor, leading to a better life for all citizens.
I will introduce the 11 major tasks of the Labor Policy Master Plan in comparison with national soccer players. First, the key of selecting strikers up front was to identify two top policy tasks that Seoul can and must do. The two tops are actively promoting labor rights to citizens and giving them advice when they are in trouble, and actively protecting and supporting those vulnerable to the effects of inequality.
The midfielders, who support the two tops from the middle, will be five major projects. Stable employment, adequate wages, an improved quality of life, a safe labor environment, and mutual respect between labor and management are the pillars that hold up the city of respect for labor.
In soccer, they say that you should watch out for the five minutes at the beginning and at the end of the first and the second halves. This is indicative of the importance of the organizational power of defense, so we will train strong defenders of governance, policy network, and promotion of awareness of respect for labor. These will support the two tops and the five major projects. Finally, the administration organization of Seoul will take the reliable role as a goalkeeper. We will secure the back door of implementation of “the City of Respect of Labor” without a hitch.
Let me then introduce the players. The first player of the two tops is active labor education and consultation. Even though we spend most of our time on labor, we haven’t had many chances to receive education and consultation, have we? Seoul will take the lead. First, we will drastically expand outreach labor education for civil servants, the youth and undergraduate students, for whom labor education is essential, as well as general citizens. Also, for citizens who receive unfair treatment at work, we will reinforce the activities of the Citizen Honorary Labor Ombudsman, consisting of certified labor consultants.
There are many underprivileged people in Seoul, and we at the SMG will focus on those in particularly dire straits in providing welfare benefits. There are diverse ways of earning income, including those engaging in swift courier services using a motorcycle or substitute driver service.
As for us at the SMG, we will put a priority on young people, who are the future leaders of our society. We will take customized measures, ensuring that there are no blind spots. Needless to say, the first step to be taken to stabilize people’s lives is the stabilization of employment. We will do our best to transform irregular workers to regular ones.
A wage is a lifeline for workers. We will consider an even, income-based virtuous cycle of economic environment through a Seoul-type living wage, the first of its kind to be adopted by a local government in Korea. We will strive to diffuse the concept of a living wage more widely, encouraging people to understand its positive effects.
We will engage in a campaign encouraging people to spend evenings with their family as much as possible. We will start a meaningful experiment for the development of a model for reducing work hours to help people enjoy a better quality of life.
We should get rid of the insensitivity to safety. We cannot emphasize the importance of workplace safety enough. We will set an example for observing workplace safety at jobsites of the projects initiated by the SMG.
The fundamental keys to labor disputes are mutual trust and respect. To that end, we will establish a participatory labor-management model, and allow the Labor-Management-People-Government Commission to serve as a channel through which our labor policies can be diffused. We will set a model of collaborative governance that reflects the real status of where work is done.
We, along with the labor welfare centers in autonomous districts, will listen to the opinions of workers, with the Seoul Labor Center serving as the control tower. We will have the SMG’s Workers Right Protection Committee serve as a de-facto labor council and set an example as a private-public sector governance body for promotion of labor policies.
Cooperation makes work easier. We will work closely with autonomous district offices, the offices of education, and the central government to garner better results and create synergistic effects. We will carry out education on young people’s rights as workers in cooperation with the offices of education. We are drawing up work guidelines entitled the Seoul Workers Bill of Rights to help people take a labor-related responsible stance and understand the relevant ethics required. We will encourage people to pay more attention to pending labor issues by using mobile apps and SNS to broadcast developments.
Execution power needs to be secured if we are to push ahead with the aforesaid measures more efficiently. We will therefore establish a system for a periodical check of execution and appraisal and have the Worker’s Right Protection Committee carry out follow-up monitoring. We will strengthen organizations for the promotion of labor policies, including the autonomous district offices.
Finally, let me talk about the budget. We will need 281.9 billion won over the next five years to carry out 61 projects in 11 core categories.
We have to run the city on a tight budget. The amount I just mentioned is the minimum required amount to treat people with respect. We will spend every penny of taxpayers’ money sparingly and carefully.
Here are the indicators of a future vision of Seoul as a city that respect workers. The future that Seoul City will usher in is that of a community where workers are respected and treated fairly – a city where hard-working people enjoy a proper wage and spend evenings happily together with their family, where basic rights of workers are protected and workers and management collaborate with each other, where all relevant components work together in unison.
We at the SMG will take one step after another to make Seoul a city where public officials respect workers. We will work together with people every step of the way. Thank you.