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S. Korea Postpones Discussions on Labor Bill - 2002-11-06

Facing a national industrial strike, South Koreans lawmakers have for now dropped a bill to shorten the work week, which the unions say would have cut pay and holiday entitlements. Tens of thousands of South Korean employees returned to work after a one-day mass walkout Tuesday, protesting government plans to reduce the working week from 44 to 40 hours.

The strike was organized by the country's second largest trade union group, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

Many of South Korea's largest companies were affected. Thirty-eight thousand workers from Hyundai Motor company alone participated in the industrial action. The company estimates losses at $35 million.

The strike was called off after Parliament's labor committee decided to postpone further discussion of government-sponsored bills, which included a measure to introduce a 5-day work week. The issue is now likely to be put off until next year.

The trade union says the proposed legislation would not only cut the working week, but it would also mean a reduction in holiday leave, reducing pay and time off.

Meanwhile, public servants demanding better working conditions and government recognition for their union, have wrapped up two days of protests. South Korea's labor groups have been stepping up calls for their demands to be met ahead of December's presidential elections.