The Korea Herald

ssg
지나쌤

Main opposition decides not to delay expansion of workplace safety law

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Feb. 1, 2024 - 18:10

    • Link copied

Ruling People Power Party lawmakers protest against the Democratic Party of Korea's decision to reject the proposal to temporarily halt the enforcement of the wider implementation of the Serious Accidents Punishment Act at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap) Ruling People Power Party lawmakers protest against the Democratic Party of Korea's decision to reject the proposal to temporarily halt the enforcement of the wider implementation of the Serious Accidents Punishment Act at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The main opposition party on Thursday rejected the proposals from both the Cabinet and the ruling party to temporarily halt the enforcement of the wider implementation of the workplace safety law, which seeks to add accountability for small and medium-sized business owners for serious industrial accidents.

The Democratic Party of Korea has decided not to accede to the request for a two-year extension of the grace period for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Following an initial two-year grace period, the scope of the "Serious Accidents Punishment Act," enacted in January 2022, was extended to encompass small and medium-sized businesses as of Jan. 27 this year.

"The Democratic Party has decided to uphold the basic value that the lives and safety of workers take priority at industrial workplaces," Hong Ihk-pyo, the party's floor leader told reporters after an intra-party policy meeting.

"This is why we have decided to reject the Cabinet and the ruling party's offer," he added.

Following the main opposition's decision, there was no vote on a revision bill drawn up by the ruling People Power Party, during a scheduled plenary session in the afternoon. The revision bill aimed to extend the grace period for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

The government already granted a two-year grace period to such companies, which account for about 80 percent of all serious accidents.

In an attempt to find a middle ground, the People Power Party had suggested to the main opposition that it would help launch a separate government agency dedicated to boosting workplace safety in two years. It would be pursued under the condition that the main opposition-led National Assembly passes the workplace safety law bill drawn up by the ruling party, ruling party floor leader Yun Jae-ok told reporters earlier in the day.

An official at the presidential office who declined to be named expressed regret over the Democratic Party's decision, saying that it has chosen not to consider the "difficulties that small and medium-sized business owners are struggling with."

The safety law holds employers liable for serious industrial accidents, and employers could face at least one year in prison or fines of up to 1 billion won ($749,000) in the event of a fatal workplace accident.