Friday, May 01, 2009

Forming Union Meets With KBO Wrath

By Kim Jae-won
Staff Reporter

Controversy is brewing as the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) is moving to form a union.

The KPBPA announced the decision at a press conference in Seoul, Tuesday.

``We have requested talks with the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and the clubs continuously, but they declined,'' KPBPA president Son Min-han told reporters.

``Now, it is time to make a union based on laws,'' the Lotte Giants pitcher added.

The KPBPA also revealed that they are set to launch a union preparation committee (UPC) consisting of two members of each team.

``Representatives of the eight teams' players agreed that now is a good time to create a union,'' KPBPA Secretary-General Kwon Si-hyung said.

``It has been ten years since the KPBPA was established, but the KBO has never admitted us as a partner,'' Kwon told The Korea Times, Tuesday.

``We realized that we needed a union which we can bargain collectively, supported by the law.''

The KBO, the sport's governing body, has objected to the move.

``They promised in 2000 that they would not take any action before six million fans (per year) visit the baseball stadiums,'' KBO spokesman Lee Jin-hyung told The Korea Times.

``The clubs are making a deficit. If we make a profit then we can have dialogue with them."

Both sides argued that the law was on their side.

``Professional baseball players are not workers but individual businessmen, as precedents show. Individual businessmen cannot make a union,'' a KBO official said.

But Son said, ``Our legal support team confirmed that to form a union is not against the law."

Kwon added, ``We are under the control of a club and get paid. We are workers."

A KPBPA official said the move is line with baseball organizations in the United States and Japan, where such unions already exist.

Professional baseball was started in the United States in 1869 and has since spread around the world.

Major League Baseball (MLB), Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the KBO are each popular in their respective countries. Taiwan, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico also have pro leagues.

Doosan Bears captain Kim Dong-ju is reportedly in favor of the union. ``I agree with the decision to make a union because it can boost the rights of players,'' Kim said. ``But I do not want it to make a lot of noise because we are in the season.''

However, baseball clubs' general managers agreed to oppose the KPBPA move at a meeting in Seoul.

``I am disappointed that the players only ask about their rights,'' Samsung Lions general manager Kim Jae-ha said.

``More than 100 players are paid over 100 million won ($74,200) per year.''

Baseball fans are also divided over the issue.

``It seems like a `royal union' because they get paid about 700 to 800 million won ($519,300 to $593,470),'' one wrote in an online post.

``I support the KPBPA. It is a good measure to restrain KBO power,'' Hong Suk-jung, another fan, said on the official KBO Web site.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said it would support the KPBPA decision.

``To make a union is baseball players' natural right,'' it said. ``We support the KPBPA and will help them.''

Well this could make for some very interesting baseball this year.

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