Large Firm Industrial Relations at the Crossroads

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[Excerpt] The studies in this volume focus heavily on industrial relations in large firms in Korea. This focus is appropriate, since a significant percentage of Korea’s roughly 1.5 million union members are employed in large firms. Unionism is a public sector and large firm phenomena in Korea. While less than 1% of workers in small firms (firms with less than 30 employees) were likely to be unionized, roughly 82% of employees working in large firms (> 500 employees) were likely to be unionized. Further, although large firms account for only 10.2% of the total wage and salary employees in Korea, their share of unionized employment approaches almost 50%. Thus, while overall Korean union density is small (roughly 11%), union density in large firms is much higher. There is also evidence that union members in large firms contribute heavily to union militancy. Firms employing over 300 workers account for only 0.2% of all firms in 2003, but they account for 32% of all strikes that took place in that year. Thus, when we are talking about Korean labor relations, in large part we are essentially talking about labor relations in large companies. Most of the chapters in this volume focus on large firms. The goal of this chapter is to summarize the arguments and conclusions of each of the seven chapters in this volume. In addition, I will also discuss the various themes highlighted in these chapters from the perspective of relevant comparative research. In so doing, I also hope to raise questions for further research and issues where new data might be necessary. Below, I summarize the chapters, and in the section that follows I address important themes and research questions.
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Korea; industrial relations; large firms
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Required Publisher Statement: © Korea Labor Institute. Final version published as: Kuruvilla, S. (2006). Large firm industrial relations at the crossroads. In C. Lee & S. Kuruvilla (Eds.), The transformation of industrial relations in large-size enterprises in Korea: Appraisals of Korean enterprise unionism (pp. 301-329). Seoul, Korea: Korea Labor Institute. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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