By Lee Hyo-sik
Government, labor and management representatives have agreed to set the country’s hourly minimum wage at 4,580 won ($4.3) in 2012, up 260 won, or 6 percent, from this year.
The agreement came after many months of wrangling.
However, major labor unions refuse to accept the council’s decision, saying they will take collective action to force it to retract its decision, and fight for a larger increase in the minimum wage.
The Minimum Wage Council said Wednesday that salaried employees who work 40 hours a week will receive at least 957,220 won a month, while the monthly minimum wage for those working 44 hours a week will be about 1.04 million won.
The trilateral council estimates that an increase in the minimum wage will benefit 2.34 million workers nationwide, who are mostly engaged in simple manual labor.
A total of 19 council members participated in a vote held early Wednesday morning. Twelve members cast a ballot in favor of the 6-percent increase, while four voted against it with three abstaining.
The deal came two weeks after the statutory deadline for setting next year’s minimum wage, which fell on June 29. Labor and management representatives had clashed numerous times over the amount of the increase.
Labor unions had insisted that the minimum hourly wage should rise by 10.6 percent, or 460 won, to 4,780 won in 2012.
But management proposed a 3.1 percent increase, saying that too much of a raise in the minimum wage would worsen the financial standing of small-sized companies
The country’s two labor umbrella groups, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), claimed that the council’s decision to increase the hourly salary by 6 percent is “invalid.”
It said council members, recommended by government and management representatives, railroaded their minimum wage plan without due consideration of the poor living conditions of low-income workers.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor will hear opinions from labor groups and management on the 6-percent wage increase for the next 10 days. It will then finalize the matter in early August.