|Issues related to the Parcel Delivery Workers Labor Union
The ‘Labor Today’ daily labor newspaper has reported on labor relations regarding the Parcel Delivery Workers Labor Union (hereinafter referred to as ‘the parcel delivery union’) composed of Post Office parcel delivery workers. There are about 3,000 parcel delivery workers at the Post Office, of which about 2,000 are unionized workers. According to an article published on January 21, 2019, the parcel delivery union requested time-off hours for union officers, a union room, a lunar holiday bonus of KRW 150,000, and full subsidy of the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance premium. If the company does not accept these suggestions, the parcel delivery union warned that they would impose a general strike for three days starting January 26, ahead of the lunar holiday. Fortunately, according to a January 25 article, labor and management reached a provisional agreement on these issues under a mediation committee of the National Labor Relations Commission. The agreed points are (i) paid time-off is granted for the union officer; (ii) a union office will be provided, (iii) a check-off system will be applied for union dues; (iv) a holiday incentive will be introduced; and (v) the company will pay half of the IACI premium.
There are several characteristics to be considered regarding the parcel delivery union. First, a parcel delivery worker is not a worker earning wages per hour from an employer, but an individual contractor who receives a service fee according to the number of parcels delivered. Since such individual contractors are not workers under the Labor Standards Act, they are protected as workers under the Labor Union Act only. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish the characteristics of these two different types of worker. Second, the parcel delivery union is demanding paid time-off and recognition of a full-time paid union officer. It is necessary to examine in detail the possibility of introducing a paid time-off system for a full-time union officer at the parcel delivery union, which consists of self-employed workers, not workers belonging to a workplace. Thirdly, since the postal service of the Post Office is regarded as an essential public service, the parcel delivery service can be regarded as a minimum service to be maintained in an essential public business. It is necessary to examine whether the parcel delivery service is in fact a minimum service to be maintained for fear of jeopardizing the daily life of the people.
II. Difference between Workers in the Labor Standards Act and Workers in the Labor Union Act
Currently the parcel delivery union is composed of individual parcel delivery contractors, not employees. I would like to examine whether these individual contractors can in fact exercise three specific labor rights as workers under the Labor Union Act.
1. Workers under the Labor Standards Act
Article 2 (1) of the Labor Standards Act stipulates that the term “worker” in this Act refers to a person who offers work to a business or workplace to earn wages, regardless of the kind(s) of job he/she is engaged in. The concept of “employee” includes the following factors: 1) It is not determined by the kind(s) of job he/she is engaged in; 2) the person works at a specific business or workplace; 3) the person offers work to earn wages. In understanding this concept, wage is placed at the center, while the key point to be considered is whether a subordinate relationship exists between the one who performs the work and the one who provides the work. That is, “employee” means “a person who offers work to earn money through a subordinate relationship”. A subordinate relationship is one where a person hired by an employer provides work to that employer, under the employer’s direction and order, and carries out the tasks the employer requires to be done. This means that an employee who offers work to earn wages can be considered “a person offering work under a subordinate relationship to an employer”.
2. Workers under the Labor Union Act
Article 2 (1) of the Labor Union Act stipulates that the term “worker” in this Act refers to a person who lives on wages, salary, or other equivalent form of income earned in pursuit of any type of job. Those who receive a wage are workers under the Labor Standards Act, and those who earn income equivalent to wages are persons under the Labor Union Act. Equivalent income means any reward earned in exchange for providing labor service to another person independently, without a subordinate relationship. Therefore, ‘worker’ in the labor union law includes workers earning a wage, unemployed persons without income, and those who have no dependent relationship but continue to provide labor for income. In other words, under the Labor Standards Act, workers have both human dependency and economic dependency, but workers under the Labor Union Act are those with economic dependency only. However, this does not apply to those who provide independent work, such as a self-employed person, students who are not ready to work, or those who have given up on job searching.
3. Division of workers
If a worker is recognized as a worker under the Labor Union Act, (s)he may exercise three labor rights(rights to labor union, collective bargaining, and collective action) as a worker. Individual parcel delivery people who are registered as individual business owners and whose income depends on the quantity of deliveries can only organize labor unions and demand collective bargaining in order to improve working conditions. In this case, the employer must comply with the collective bargaining requests of labor unions, and labor unions can increase their bargaining power through strikes favoring collective bargaining. If an employer is harmed through collective bargaining or labor strikes, the employer cannot terminate the contract with the delivery agent or claim damages (Articles 3, 4, 81 of the Labor Union Act).
III. Applicability of Paid Time-off
It is necessary to examine whether workers under the Labor Union Act are eligible for paid time-off. In the case of a full-time union officer, it is stipulated that "an employee may engage in the work of a labor union without providing the assigned work prescribed by the labor contract". Here, 'delivery contract' does not fall under 'employment contract with prescribed work' or 'working time', as the delivery person receives a service fee based on the number of units delivered. There could be questions about how a time-off system could be applied to such an individual.
1. The paid time-off system
In Article 24 of the Labor Union Act, the union's paid time-off system (also known as the paid full-time union officer system) is defined as "a worker who does not provide work prescribed by the labor contract." Paragraph 4 of the article stipulates that “in the case of a collective agreement or agreement by the employer, union officers can carry out the maintenance and management work of the union without being engaged in contractual work hours within limits not exceeding the permitted hours in accordance with Article 24-2." The union officer is usually provided with the normal salary even if the union officer does not provide the prescribed work.
2. Applicability of a paid full-time union officer in the Labor Union Act
The Labor Ministry Guideline provides answers for questions: whether parcel delivery unions are applicable under the paid full-time union officer rule, if the paid full-time union officer falls under the paid time-off system, and how much is appropriate for the level of the paid income for the paid full-time union officer. First of all, for a paid full-time union officer, "Article 24 (Paragraph 1) of the Labor Union Act states that the work prescribed by labor contract means a cont