Is this really possible – a changeover from temporary to permanent labor?
This was my reaction upon hearing about Seoul City’s press conference to announce the changeover from temporary to permanent labor.
On May 1, 1,054 temporary workers of Seoul Metropolitan Government and its affiliated institutions were making the transition to regular employment. The news was very welcome indeed.
This move is obviously in line with the intentions of the workers, and it has given me great satisfaction to think about how happy it will have made their families. It is a first for the public institutions of this country, and moreover a step forward for government policy. Offering improved labor conditions, such as bringing regular work to people over 56 years old and close to retirement, and not just a guarantee of employment, but also a rise in salary, along with promotion, benefits and holiday bonuses: I knew that it was a meaningful event.
More than anything, I knew it represented a change that should be actively spread: it has provided a model for Seoul, and thus points the way for changes at other local governments and public institutions, reaching even as far as the private sector.
However, my mind was also filled with remorse for the 1,836 temporary workers who will not be making the change to permanent status. This year, a worker over 50 years old called the labor union representing the changeover movement, pleading to be ‘considered as permanent employees’. Unfortunately, this changeover cannot be applied to all the temporary workers of Seoul and its affiliated institutions.
I also received many letters and emails concerning the changeover, including one from the family of one of Seoul’s temporary workers. They must have been going through a lot to take the time to contact me in person. With those people on my mind, I wasn’t able to deliver the news about the changeover for the 1,054 workers and feel completely happy about it.
The changeover to permanent status was planned to take place in the latter part of the year. Nevertheless, there were practical difficulties resulting from the legal problems concerning a changeover of all the temporary workers.
It should be possible to work without discrimination and without risk of dismissal purely on the grounds that one is a temporary worker. Indeed, people who work in places that require a regular workforce should be guaranteed that much at least. And there should be a restoration of two simple things: the common sense and the solid foundations of labor.
However, before the benefits become apparent and can be measured by the public, there are still many mountains to climb. Creating a world that reflects common sense and protects the foundations established by its workers promises to be a long and hard slog, but it is one that we must make.