SEOUL, Nov. 20 (Korea Bizwire) — A South Korean court ruled for the first time that chauffeurs are laborers with legal rights to engage in collective bargaining.
The Eastern Branch of Busan District Court rejected a lawsuit submitted by two chauffeur service providers against three chauffeurs.
The two chauffeur services in Busan have been using a smartphone application for hailing chauffeurs.
The three chauffeurs have been working for these two companies after signing a separate contract, before they joined the Busan Chauffeurs Labor Union in December 2018 and began asking for collective bargaining.
The companies responded by arguing that “chauffeurs are freelancers, not laborers,” and asked the court to confirm their legal status.
The court ruled for the chauffeurs by deciding that they were under the direct supervision of these companies and being offered wages and other income in exchange for their labor, legally qualifying them as laborers.
“It doesn’t seem likely that the chauffeurs are realistically capable of holding a secondary job, and they are de facto employed by the chauffeur companies,” the court said. “We therefore can recognize them as laborers.”
A laborer, as defined by the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act, differs from the definition provided by the Labor Standards Act, mainly due to difference in the purposes of these two laws.
The Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act aims to ensure a laborer’s right to organize, while the Labor Standards Act enables the government to protect the laborers.
To be recognized as laborer under the Labor Standards Act is relatively tricky since it requires clear designation of the parties involved.
Under the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act, in contrast, a person can be recognized as a laborer as long as certain conditions, including whether the person is under company supervision, are met, experts argue.
The labor union expects that the court decision will significantly impact the chauffeur industry nationwide.
Previously, chauffeurs, along with delivery workers and insurance planners, have been categorized as ‘freelancers’ which excluded them from being protected by labor laws as laborers.
The court’s decision does not ensure, however, that all chauffeurs can be recognized as laborers.
“Chauffeurs who work for multiple chauffeur services may not be recognized as laborers since they fail to be in full affiliation with a single company,” said Choi Byeong-no, president of the Busan Chauffeurs Labor Union.
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)