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Incheon International Airport employment plan controversy

The transition from temporary position to full-time position, which was one of the pledges made during President Moon Jae-in's presidential election, is steadily being promoted. Incheon International Airport declared on June 21, 2020, that it will directly hire 1,900 security workers. This means that temporary position workers will be changed to permanent workers at the airport as "civilian policemen," which has led to big controversy. Let's find out why this controversy arose.

Background of Incheon International Airport employment plan 

Incheon International Airport has steadily increased its outsourcing ratio since 2014 to improve management efficiency by reducing labor costs. Incheon International Airport has outsourced almost all of its operations, including the controversial security checks, except for key office jobs. As of 2019, full-time workers accounted for 10% of the total 10,000 workers, which is the lowest among public institutions. This is why temporary position workers have been continuously calling for a transition to full time positions. As the Moon Jae-in government was launched, the temporary position workers were steadily being changed to full-time worker in the public sector. Over the past three years, the scale of full-time conversion of 363 public institutions have risen to more than 90,000 full-time jobs, with the highest numbers of 8,000, at KEPCO; 7,000 at Korea Expressway Corporation and around 6,000 at KORAIL. Incheon International Airport Corporation also announced the full-time conversion for about 1,900 workers.

In response to the announcement of the transition, part-time workers welcomed the announcement, saying, "Since security checks are the most important task in airport security, it is essential to change to direct employment by the airport." It is wrong to outsource security works at Incheon International Airport for cost reduction, and the transition to full-time jobs should have been implemented a long time ago. They argued that the trend of outsourcing, which has been going on for more than 20 years, has to bend and normal employment procedure should be made. Only then would future students and job seekers have jobs with better stability. Temporary position workers also refuted claims that security checkers were promoted to full-time positions after working part-time, saying, "temporary position workers should be trained more than two months and pass the certification evaluation by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and it takes more than a year to start to work alone, so not everyone can be a security checker."

 

 

Controversy Related to Incheon international airport's employment plan

The first controversy over the employment plan was a demonstration by full-time workers. The large scale demonstration took place in front of Incheon International Airport on June 23, 2020. Existing full-time union members took part in a demonstration at Incheon International Airport, saying, "Stop immediately the decision to switch to full-time job that was made without sufficient discussion with the full-time worker union." Some employees took personal vacations and took part in the demonstrations. In addition, the workers participated in the demonstration while wearing masks and holding signs such as ‘opposition to the one-sided employment plan except for existing workers.’ In demonstration by full-time workers, workers insisted that the employment plan will significantly reduce new employment numbers and cause reduced wages and welfare for existing construction workers due to the limited total labor costs. The 1,900 temporary position worker to be converted this time is even larger than the existing number of full-time workers at Incheon International Airport. Full-time workers also argued that if the workers who become full-time workers take control of the unionleadership, they will demand equal wages and salaries with existing full-time workers."

The second controversy over the employment plan is the Kakao talk group chat room for temporary workers. On June 23, 2020, the online community posted a dialogue that was a short chat room for temporary workers of Incheon International Airport. One user said, “I went to the military and after that, I earned 1.9 million won as a security checker at Incheon airport. But, now I'm getting 50 million won a year! And my two-year career is recognized.” Another user criticized this by saying, "What will happen to those who have worked hard?" Then, the first user sarcastically said , "Who told you to work hard?" Job seekers expressed their anger at the contents of the Incheon Airport chatroom posted on the online community. However, according to the report of <Media Today> on June 29, the content of this chat room was revealed to be false. The reporter of News1 who wrote the article said, "I do not confirm whether it was true or not." and added, "It was an article that received a tip-off, and the chat room was actually a room created by Incheon International Airport employees." The reporter also argues that the focus should be on the sense of deprivation felt by job seekers rather than whether the contents are true or not. Kim Won-hyung, the chairman of the Incheon Airport Security Search Union, said that the screen shot of “the chat room” is “Fake News” and “I am going to request an investigation through an attorney.” Confusion over the situation is increasing, with some claiming that the inflated reports of inaccurate news are raising the anger of young job seekers.

The last controversy over the employment plan is related to rough words from the political circles. On June 25, Congressman Kim Doo-gwan of the Democratic Party made a controversial remark about the conversion to full-time employment, saying, "It is unfair to get paid twice as much as temporary workers by learning a little more and passing the written test to become full-time workers." He even criticized the National Petition and said that despite the circumstances of temporary workers, over 200,000 people agreed to the national petition because of the false news of Cho Joong-dong (Chosun, Joongang, Dong-A newspaper) trying to attack the government's policy of  switch temporary jobs to full-time jobs in the public sector. In response, the voice of criticism about Kim Doo-gwan increased, saying, "It is a big problem to seek equality of results, not equality of opportunity." In addition, other criticism was also raised about the fact that Kim Doo-gwan's son is preparing for a job in rich conditions, including studying abroad in UK. Kim Doo-gwan expressed his displeasure as being criticized for the fact of his son's study abroad, "What is the connection between the innovation of the labor market dualization and my son’s education?"

 

 

Problems of transition to full-time position at Incheon International Airport

The first problem of changing to full-time position is total labor cost. The total labor cost system was introduced to the central administrative agency in 2007 and was implemented in Incheon International Airport. The total labor cost system is a system in which each institution autonomously manages its organization, budget, and manpower within the total labor cost limit allocated by the government. Since this total labor cost system pays the salary of workers of public institutions within the specified labor cost, there is a disadvantage in evaluating the institution if the labor cost is outside the budget. If the number of full-time workers at Incheon International Airport increases and the salary is paid while exceeding the labor cost range, there may be requirement to reduce the salary or welfare expenses of the existing full-time employees. In addition, after temporary position workers are converted to full-time workers, it is highly likely that the converted workers will erode the compensation of existing workers while demanding the same wages as existing full-time workers. In fact, an official at Incheon International Airport Corporation said, "The workers who came into the open recruitment are strongly opposed to this employment plan," adding, " There is a joke saying, 'If you come in as a temporary position, join the union first, and protest, you will be a full-time worker."

The second problem of changing to full-time positions is fairness. As of July 2020, Incheon International Airport Corporation had 9,785 temporary position workers in 60 partner companies. Among them, 1,900 security checkers who are in charge of the core business of Incheon International Airport will be hired directly, while the remaining 7,000 will be hired by three subsidiaries. The plan is that alltemporary position workers will eventually be hired as full-time positions, but the remaining 70 percent will be employed as subsidiaries with relatively low compensation (e.g. Incheon Airport Operations Services, Incheon International Airport Security, etc.) while 1,900 will be directly employed by the Incheon International Airport headquarters. This would create a sense of deprivation for 70% of temporary position workers, raising controversy about fairness. In fact, subsidiaries such as 'Incheon Airport Operation Service' were newly established in 2019 and are known to have lower pay and welfare benefits compared to their counterparts in the headquarters., Union members claim that the transition to full-time positions through subsidiaries is no different from hiring another subcontractor.

The third problem of changing to full-time positions is lack of jobs. There are many opinions that the fundamental cause of this transition to full-time positions is the lack jobs for young people. In May 2020, the number of employed people decreased by 390,000 from a year ago, and has continued to decrease for three consecutive months. In particular, the unemployment rate among young people in their 20s was 10.3%, more than twice the overall unemployment rate (4.5%). In this difficult situation, Incheon International Airport, which is regarded as the best job among public corporations, is planning to hire just one person for open recruitment in this year. Because of this, young job seekers respond more sensitively to this transition and criticize Incheon International Airport for reverse discrimination. Park, 27, who has been preparing for employment for two years after leaving university, assessed this employment plan as 'showing administration' in an interview with Yonhap News. He said, "The number of employees converted to full-time positions reduces the number of people employed in those jobs." and "The number of jobs has contracted because of Corona 19, but it is unfair to university students who have spent several years preparing for exams and interviews and earning licenses to earn extra points." Kang Seong-jin, a professor of economics at Korea University, said, "It has broken the hopes of young people to enter the new labor market because it has denied the opportunity to compete fairly." On June 23, a petition titled 'Please stop changing temporary position workers to full-time workers in public institutions' was posted. One month later, on July 30, 2020, 352,266 people had signed the petition. In fact, due to the government's excessive transition to full-time workers, labor costs of public institutions have increased by 8 trillion won in four years as of 2020, and their debts have exceeded 525 trillion won in 2019, an all-time high.

 

 

Previous similar cases

Controversies over the transition to full-time jobs has occurred often in the Moon Jae-in government. This case was only highlighted because of the name value of Incheon International Airport Corporation. Let's look at the case of the Korea Expressway Corporation, a case similar to the Incheon International Airport situation, and look at the case of the National Museum of Modern Art. 

Looking at the case of the Korea Expressway Corporation's toll collectors, the Korea Expressway Corporation has been in conflict with toll collectors about the full-time conversion issue since it was decided in 2017. The Korea Expressway Corporation insisted that it had no choice but to hire employees of its subsidiaries, not employees from its headquarters, and the toll collectors who refused the plan were fired and some filed a court suit. In 2019, after a two-year legal battle, , of the 6,500 employees, only 1,400 were hired directly by headquarters and the rest were hired by subsidiaries. In the course of the legal battle, the Korea Highway Corporation made it clear that the 1,400 employees who were hired by headquarters may have limited work to do, because all but 1,400 people will be in charge of the collection through a subsidiary called Korea Highway Corporation Service. Accordingly, workers who are hired by headquarters will be in charge of environmental maintenance, such as cleaning highway bus stops, rest stops, drainage, and the lower parts of bridges, rather than collecting toll. Directly hired workers complained that they earned a lower salary than those hired through subsidiaries, and again, there was a conflict with the head office regarding wage increases and hard work issues. The Korea Expressway Corporation announced that it was unable to meet the demands because the description of the work and salary were agreed upon at the time of transition to full-time work, after the agreement in May 2020. Park Soon-hyang, Assistant Branch Manager of the tollgate headquarters, said, "Women in their 50s are holding shovels and sickles at the scene. "The company itself is spending a lot of money and subsidiaries and workers are suffering in their own ways," she criticized.

On the other hand, the National Museum of Modern Art shows a precedent of the 'fair competition method' as a hiring method different from Incheon International Airport. The National Museum of Modern Art announced its transition to full-time jobs in December 2019 and decided to change the "professional term system," a temporary position that had been extending contracts on a two-year basis, to a "general term system." A general term system is a career civil servant who is employed in a position requiring professional knowledge or skills, and is classified as a full-time worker because the contract period is at least five years. The National Museum of Modern Art adopted a process called 'public recruitment' in the process of changing temporary position to full-time position. Temporary worker, who previously belonged to them, went through a resume and verification process, just like the new candidates, and as a result, one out of thresuccessful applicants was newly hired. This recruitment showed the result of putting the keyword "fair competition" at the top of the list. This fair recruitment process has been controversial as some of the existing 'professional term system' lose their jobs, but announced that it is going to go through such a recruitment process in the future, saying that it is an inevitable component of fair competition.

 

 

Prospects of Incheon International Airport's transition to full-time position

In response to the controversy, the government says the transition of temporary workers to full-time worker has nothing to do with jobs that university students are currently preparing for. In December 2017, the transition to full-time employment was already agreed to by labor and management to hire security officers directly, and emphasized that it is not a salary issue that is currently taking place, or a lack of opportunity. Deok-soon Hwang, chief of the Blue House, said, “Since Moon Jae-in's government, the number of full-time jobs in public institutions has increased by almost 50%" and "The employees that join after President Moon Jae-in's appointment must go through an open recruitment process to become a full-time employee. If you're an applicant, you might see it as a big opportunity". Hwang added, “This process seems to have been misunderstood by young people, explaining that this is a process that is aimed at fairness in the labor market in a slightly different way from the job market.” Despite the Blue House's answer, the controversy over the situation in Incheon International Airport will continue and efforts to preserve the value of this 'fairness' will continue. Then let's see what efforts are being taken to prevent this.

The Future United Party launched the 'Incheon international airport Fair Recruitment Task Force ' to cope with this employment issuethat caused public resentment among young people. The Task Force was created to reestablish fair principles and lead a consensus with the people regarding the Incheon International Airport controversy. The Task Force proposed the 'Lotto Employment Prevention Act' on June 30, which would disclose the hiring process of public corporations and public institutions and also prohibit preferential hiring. In the remarks of the first meeting of the Task Force held at the National Assembly on July 6, Ha Tae-kyung, chairman of the Fair Recruitment Task Force, insisted that the “Incheon international airport Lotto Employment” was “purely, unfair recruitment for the President, by the President”. During this process, Ha Tae-kyung held a "Incheon International Airport Lotto Recruitment Debate" to discuss the situation. The Task Force team visited Incheon International Airport on July 7 and said, "We will prepare more legislation or measures to prevent young people from being frustrated.”

 

 

In the worst unemployment rate situation, young people are infuriated because of policies that only consider fragmentary aspects. The Incheon International Airport controversy is a reflection of all social problems such as fairness, class conflict and discrimination. The only way to properly respond to the messages posed by young people is to properly think about these problems and to come up with specific solutions.

이광호  june3869@naver.com

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