A Dispute between the University and Irregular Professors
A Dispute between the University and Irregular Professors
  • Ju-Hee Park, Nam-Gyu Lim
  • 승인 2010.05.17 21:33
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During the 2009 summer vacation, Yeungnam University received a great deal of attention because they fired almost 100 irregular professors all at once, and this year, they received attention again because of the general strike. Irregular professors are employed based on fixed-term contracts each semester and they receive hourly wages. Their wages range from one fifth to one tenth of regular professors. Most irregular professors at YU are not on a tenure track nor are they eligible to receive 4 social welfare benefits. Above all, many irregular professors can be seen taking a rest at the library and on the lawn because they do not have break rooms or offices. They are not allowed to vote on university affairs nor are they able to vote to elect the university president.On April 27th, 2002, irregular professors set up a Korean Irregular Professors' Union to assert their rights. Now there are seven branches of the Union (Keungbuk, Daegu, Sunggonghwoi, Sunggyungwan, Yeungnam, Junnam, and Josun) and there are 50,000-60,000 professors in the Union. The union’s Yeungnam University branch pitched tents along Chunma Road and held a press conference to make a declaration of their struggle. The Union also finished inputting students' grades. The union said that "A regular professor generally makes close to one hundred million won a year but we barely make ten million won a year. So a wage freeze is very illogical." The University also agreed to give university personnel an annuity insurance of 100,000 won a month so the total pension contribution is now 1,200,000 won per year. In addition, university personnel will go up in salary scale according to the number of consecutive years of service. However, the University insisted that university personnel income be frozen.They had been out on strike since December 23rd to protest against the University's rejection of the Union's demand for a wage increase of 10.000 won an hour, a raise in spending for teaching materials from 50,000 won to 100,000 won.Daegu Regional Ministry of Labor arbitrated that there should be a "freeze on institution fees, and that the spending for teaching materials be raised from 50,000 won to 135,000 won" but Yeungnam University rejected this suggestion. Finally, 217 out of a total of 398 union members took part in a vote by the labor union and 207 (95.4%) members agreed to take action on December 1st, 2009. Therefore, they declared a general strike, refused to grade students' test papers and to input students' grade. As for the University, they made a counterproposal, this was the first time, and it came after the term of grade corrections on December 29th. However, the Labor Union was not satisfied with the counterproposal. They continued the strike, so students were unable to check their grades. Some students have been greatly inconvenienced as they need their grades to apply for transfer and outside scholarships. Therefore the Labor Union suggested an alternative. The irregular professors made an offer to input the grades of students who needed their transcripts, but the University rejected the offer. On January 11th, 2010, both parties reached an agreement after long negotiations. The University offered to raise the reserve fund for lectures from 50,000 won to 80,000 won for irregular professors and they agreed to add one more research office.We interviewed Seung-Dae Baek, the dean of YU academic affairs Q. Why did the University reject the arbitration ruling handed down from the Daegu Regional Ministry of Republic of Korea?A. Last year, Yeungnam University's registration fees were frozen along with regular employee's wages. We found it difficult to raise irregular professor's wages. We rejected it because the compromise ruling was an outrageous demand. Therefore, we agreed that irregular professor's wages be raised by 30,000 won, so they can have 80,000 won in lecture reserves per lecture as of this semester.Q. What did you do to deal with the students' grades not being input?A. Fortunately, the damage was negligible. However, if the negotiations reached a deadlock, we would have dealt with it using a Pass/Fail method because we didn't have a sound basis or data to make a transcript. In the end, we reached an agreement and the students' grades were entered.Q. Why did you reject the compromise to give transcripts to the students who needed them for specific reasons?A. We agreed to give transcripts if the irregular professors promised to input all the grades. We didn't agree because some students would have been able to get detailed grades but, that would have been unfair to the students who would have had to accept Pass / Fail grades. The problem would not only have affected those ready to transfer and possible scholarship students but also ordinary students.Q. Why didn't Yeungnam University try to negotiate promptly so students wouldn’t suffer?A. We were obliged to do so because we offered them the best possible terms, but they rejected our suggestion. I think that getting students in trouble with marking as a weapon is not appropriate for an educator at all. They should have found another way but they acted as inappropriate educators. Q. University personnel wages were frozen but they actually got about three-billion won under the pretext of annuity insurance and the salary scale was also increased. Is that true?A. A raise in salary was already provided for in the contract so that is legal. Irregular professors wages are based on an hourly rate so a lecturer's wages are clearly different from personnel wages. They have different contract contents from regular professors. There is no choice but to do so by law. Q. How will these changes affect registration fees this year?A. If registration fees rise, it is not a problem to raise wages anyway. However, in 2010, registration fees are frozen.Q. The University supplied the professors with another research office, but this is insufficient for eight hundred irregular lecturers. What do you think about that?A. All eight hundred irregular professors do not need a research office. Research offices accomodate a set number of users. We supply one research office for lecturers who need them. These facilities have always been lacking. We supply research offices only to those working at Yeungnam University. We did our best for them.He insisted that this semester, registration fees were frozen, so regular professors’ wages should also be frozen. Like the preceding situation, we couldn't raise wages without justification. We knew well difference between regular professors and irregular professors. However, Yeungnam University irregular professors' wages are boasted about as being the best in Korea. We thought that we suggested the best way but we can't raise wages anymore. If other Universities raise wages, then we would reconsider it.Everyone involved expected the students of YU to suffer due to this strike. Fortunately, there wasn't any significant damage. However, many were greatly inconvenienced because they desperately waited for the release of their records. While these students suffered, the school made no announcements. Although the conflict with irregular lecturers and school was drastic, most students did not know any specifics about the story. As the irregular professors went on strike, they just criticized them unconditionally. On the other hand, they also expect improved class levels because of this strike.We conducted an interview with Ja-chul Ha, the president of YU labor union of irregular professors Q. Yeungnam University irregular professors rank among the highest paid in Korea. Why did you go on strike when there are more urgent situations at other universities?A. It is true. Yeungnam University's income scale is good compared to other universities. However, even though YU looks good in comparison, the wages at other universities are too low, so it is not a meaningful comparison. These wages are also the result of our struggle for more than a decade. Until now, we worked with poor wages that did not reach the minimum cost of living. The University was not fully engaged in the negotiations until the very end of 2008 when the new president was established.Q. Will other universities be able effected by their struggle in Daegu and Kyeungbuk?A. In this area, the labor union was non-existent except for Kyeungbuk, Yeungnam, and Daegu University. So we made a wage agreement representative that resulted in a significant impact on other universities' wages.Q. What do you think about the negative opinions against irregular professors on Yeungnam University's free board?A. Almost all students who asked for transcripts did so due to scholarship applications, transfers, and certification of expectant graduation for employment. We never tried to take the students hostage in order to threaten the University. Actually, the University took the students hostage. We turned in grade sheets for the students who needed transcripts. Q. It is assumed that many irregular professors usually teach other universities students, so they have another source of income. Is this true?A. Those cases are rare except for some irregular professors because it's so demanding to prepare lectures. If we have many lectures, the quality of lectures go down. We also need time to study for our teaching.We can learn many things from this strike, and we have to recognize our faults. The reason why this strike happened isn't completely the fault of either side. Each side was at fault. The attitude of the school in firmly rejecting the irregular lecturer's demands created this situation and lengthened the term of the strike. They seemed to be too stingy. The rooms they offer to irregular professors are inadequate to accommodate all of them. It is a fact that they are different from regular professors, but their effort to reduce the gap between regular professors and irregular professors is insufficient. The demands of the irregular professors were also too greedy. Everyone knows about their bad wages and work environment, but the irregular professors of Yeungnam University receive higher wages than most other universities. Both sides used the plight of the students who were innocent bystanders, as leverage. However, the students are not completely without blame either. They did not become interested in the strike until irregular professors refused to input scores. They should have a more active attitude and interest in university affairs regardless of whether it directly affects them. In conclusion, everyone is at fault, and they should reflect on their behavior. Everyone's effort will be needed to go a long way toward establishing a harmonious solution.

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