Incheon International Airport faces mounting controversy over its plan to transition current airport security inspectors to full-time positions.
Security inspectors eligible to be hired by the corporation are those employed by contractors as non-regular workers.
The corporation has been voted the most favored state-owned enterprise to work for by fresh college and university graduates for the past three years.
Gaining regular employment status at the coveted firm just because they were non-regular workers it its contractors is a stroke of fortune for them, but is unfair to others.
The corporation has some 1,400 full-time workers on its payroll. But the number of non-regular security inspectors it will recruit at this time is 1,902, far more than existing staff.
It is said to have initially planned to offer them jobs at one of its subsidiaries, but decided to hire them directly after a meeting with the presidential office in May.
Then scathing criticisms poured out from young people frustrated by a shortage of jobs.
A public petition was posted on the website of the presidential office on June 23, and gathered more than 200,000 signatures in just three days, requiring the presidential office to formally answer it.
“What did earnest job seekers do to deserve this? Is it equality to let non-regular workers steal their jobs?” the petition said. This is an expression of concern about the possible reduction in job openings for people who are working hard to get a job at the corporation.
The plan is causing conflicts among related unions. The corporation’s union opposes it, vowing to file a petition with the Constitutional Court. If security inspectors were to form their own union upon entering the firm, it would be larger than the existing one and secure collective bargaining rights. Then it would likely seek to change the wage structure to its advantage.
Non-regular workers who are not security inspectors are discontented.
Security inspectors who are already regular employees of contractors are dissatisfied, too. They complain of being unable to become regular workers at the corporation, which is seen as a more desirable employer, though they do the same job as the non-regular workers.
Even security inspectors eligible to enter the corporation have complaints.
If they joined as contractors after May 12, 2017, they must take a difficult open competitive test to enter the airport corporation. They will have to compete with new applicants. Some existing security inspectors may fail the exam and lose their jobs.
May 12, 2017 is the day President Moon Jae-in visited the corporation to declare his policy to make the number of non-regular workers zero.
Those who became security inspectors before that day have to take a test, too, but the exam is reportedly close to a formality for them.
The root cause of the controversies is unfairness.
Young people ask, “Why should someone have to pass highly a competitive test while someone else enters the firm through a back door?”
It is also questionable whether it is reasonable to differentiate tests based on the date.
The presidential office and the ruling party seem mistaken about the point of the issue.
A senior presidential secretary said that the corporation’s move “reflects efforts to create more and better jobs for young people over the long term.” If it keeps upgrading the status of non-regular workers this way, job openings for new hires will likely decrease.
A senior lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said that “it is unfair for an employee to receive twice as much pay as an irregular employee just because the former is a slightly more educated regular worker.”
This remark invited cynical responses, with an internet post saying “It is unfair for a lawmaker to receive an annual allowance just because he won a few more votes.”
Regular employees of the corporation are paid more than irregular workers of its contractors not because the former are a little more educated, but because their jobs and contributions are different from those of the latter.
Few would oppose better treatment of non-regular workers. But the method of solving the problem was wrong.
Confusion and controversies were caused by an excessive push for a “zero non-regular worker” initiative. The government ignored the internal situation of the corporation in carrying it out.
For other state-run enterprises, non-regular workers of their contractors demanded obstinately, sometimes striking, that they hire them as regular workers. They were finally hired, further frustrating youngsters longing for fair competition at a time when jobs are in short supply.
The government ought to reexamine its “zero non-regular worker” policy.