As a result of an amendment to the Labor Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act, effective as of July 1, 2011, the establishment of multiple labor unions within a company became permitted. About a year thereafter, as time approached for the renewal of collective bargaining agreements, various types of disputes and conflicts arose between employers and multiple labor unions within a company and amongst multiple labor unions themselves. From July 1, 2011 to August 31, 2012, the Labor Relations Commission of Korea handled over 600 cases relating to multiple labor unions, including, among others, cases relating to public notice by the employer regarding which labor union should be the sole counterparty to collective bargaining, separation of units for collective bargaining, determination of the labor union which will represent workers in collective bargaining and breach of the duty of fair representation. At this time, a detailed review and examination is necessary for prevention of disputes in workplaces with multiple labor unions.
- What is the process through which collective bargaining agreements are formed in workplaces with multiple labor unions?
Collective bargaining agreements in workplaces with multiple labor unions are formed by first determining which business or workplace will enter into the collective bargaining agreement as a unit. Thereafter, by making a demand for collective bargaining, streamlining bargaining channels for collective bargaining can be made, and then a collective bargaining agreement can be executed. Streamlining of bargaining channels for collective bargaining (i.e., establishment of a single, exclusive channel for collective bargaining) proceeds in the following order: (1) labor union makes a demand for collective bargaining (3 months prior to expiration of the collective bargaining agreement in effect); (2) public notice made by the employer for a period of 7 days; (3) application for participation submitted by other labor union(s); (4) public notice regarding the contents of such application made by the employer for a period of 5 days; (5) voluntary determination of the collective bargaining representative made within 14 days; (6) formation of one or more labor unions which represent a majority of the employees or a joint collective bargaining representative group if there is no such labor union(s) ; and (7) determination of the Labor Relations Commission regarding composition of the joint collective bargaining representative group (in cases where voluntary composition of such group by the labor unions is not possible). It is worth noting that in the process of collective bargaining, the labor union representative and the employer both bear a duty of fair representation, which means that they must not discriminate amongst labor unions or amongst labor union members.
- What are the requirements and procedures for the separation of bargaining units?
In a workplace with multiple labor unions, in order to separate bargaining units by each labor union, an application for separation of bargaining units should be filed with the Labor Relations Commission by either a labor union or the employer, and the opinion of labor and management should be submitted to the Labor Relations Commission, whereupon the Labor Relations Commission decides whether to separate bargaining units. The separation of bargaining units is determined by consideration of whether there are substantial differences in employment conditions within a single business or workplace and the forms of employment and bargaining practices, among others, and if the decision of the local Labor Relations Commission is unlawful or exceeds its authority, a petition for reexamination can be filed with the National Labor Relations Commission to commence administrative litigation. Currently, determination regarding the separation of bargaining units is occurring in many workplaces due to the history of the establishment of labor unions and circumstances such as the regional division of workplaces.
- What kinds of conduct can be considered potential unfair labor practices in workplaces with multiple labor unions?
If multiple labor unions have been established in a workplace, it is possible to refuse a demand for collective bargaining by an individual labor union which did not perform the streamlining of bargaining channels for collective bargaining or by a party which is not a collective bargaining representative. On the other hand, the execution of a collective bargaining agreement with a labor union that is not a collective bargaining representative may constitute an unfair labor practice since such activity may constitute a domineering interference with the demand for collective bargaining by the collective bargaining representative. Furthermore, if there are substantial differences in the employment conditions or benefits among labor unions separated as bargaining units or among labor unions that have bargained individually, it may constitute an unfair labor practice as the imposition of an unfair disadvantage or a domineering interference.