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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 26)

Debate on hiring fairness

A fierce debate is ongoing over Incheon International Airport’s decision to give full employment status to security screening personnel in temporary positions. As soon as the public company announced it would directly hire some 1,900 screeners on Monday, various interest groups began to protest the move simultaneously. Even the company’s 1,500 union workers oppose the decision, reportedly for fear of losing the initiative to the newly joining workers outnumbering the existing employees.

However, most enraged are young jobseekers who have prepared hard to enter the company, which is high on the list of preferred employers because of decent wages and working conditions. On Tuesday, a frustrated petitioner called for discontinuing the process on the Cheong Wa Dae website. More than 200,000 people signed it in less than 24 hours, forcing the presidential office to give a response. The COVID-19 pandemic has squeezed the already tight job market further as large employers have all but stopped new recruitment, making college graduates more desperate than ever.

The ongoing controversy is all the more pitiable because President Moon Jae-in visited the company and promised to eradicate temporary employment in the public sector on May 12, 2017, only three days after taking office. Given the direct hiring is in keeping with the government’s policy, some political opponents’ instigation of public opinion through the distortion of facts is undesirable.

There are even unfounded stories on the internet, saying the airport screeners who have worked as part-timers will receive a yearly salary of 50 million won ($40,000) equal to college-graduated recruits. That is far from reality. Expanding direct employment fits the government’s policy better than hiring them as irregular workers and changing their status to regular employees later by setting up subsidiaries.

If efforts to turn temps into full-timers stop only in the public sector, the policy’s effects will be limited. The private sector should cooperate positively by joining in the government’s efforts. Korea ought to move toward giving more temporary workers regular jobs to help them live with at least the minimum decency, however hard the process may be.
(END)

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