HWAGANG: In today’s Question Hours in Parliament, Prime Minister Sabrina Hwang outlined a plan to move forward with labor reform, drawing flak from both the left and right as she tries to cobble together majority support. The proposed bill, which would reverse statutory language allowing judges to decline protest petitions due to solely economic rationales, implement a 𐋃1.000/hr minimum wage, and enforce stricter workplace safety legislation, is expected to have a narrow, but fairly straightforward path through the National Assembly. Alongside Minister of Justice Luna Marin, Hwang also announced an investigation into the Yuseong Machining Corporation, at whose factory two workers were critically injured. A failure to pass any legislation in the wake of today’s historic strikes in Suyang would likely lead to a snap election, in what would be the fifth major election in a four year span.
Hwang was primarily attacked by Conservatives, One Haesan, and Free Democrats, largely due to concerns about economic growth. Free Democrats have emerged as the largest opponents of the minimum wage, mainly originating from the Choi Da-yeon loyalists in the party. Seo Yu-jun, the leader of One Haesan, has said that Hwang’s proposal “reeks of Gramontism,” and that the party would oppose any labor legislation under the current government. The Conservatives have been more muted, understanding the gravity of the current national situation, but also generally oppose the Prime Minister’s proposal.
The Social Democrats have also voiced opposition, saying that the bill does not go far enough in allowing workers to unionize. In a response to a SDP deputy, Hwang responded that “widespread unionization would result in a drastically changed economic landscape, one that would become untenable for many, especially agricultural workers and the urban poor.” While the SDP deputy was visibly irritated by Hwang’s response, it seemed to assuage the fears of many of her fellow Moderate Party members, who she will need on board in order to save the governing coalition.
Overall, Hwang struck a very direct message, saying that “We are receiving a clear message from the workers in the streets today that we are not doing enough to protect the rights of our citizens and uphold the liberal ideals that are the foundation of our nation. We must act now in order to uphold our promise as Deputies to the people of our nation, to whom we have an unassailable duty to represent.”
Whip counts estimate that there are anywhere from 205 to 215 deputies in favor in the lower house, but the coalition will likely be unable to avoid any defections in the Chamber of the Commonwealth in order to avoid the veto. A vote in the Chamber of Deputies is expected by the end of the week.