The labor union of Zuellig Pharma Korea has launched a series of one-man protests in front of the Embassy of France in Seoul on Thursday after its wage bargaining with the management broke down.
Earlier last month, the National Labor Relations Commission recommended that the management of the drugmaker “increase the basic annual salary by 3.1 percent and pay 1.5 million won ($1,366) to each worker as a one-time payment for an agreement of the deal.”
However, the management refused to do so, and the wage negotiations collapsed. The labor union claims that the management did not meet the duty of good faith bargaining and that the management kept “changing words.”
|Park Gi-il, head of the labor union of Zuellig Pharma Korea, stages a one-person protest in front of the Embassy of France in Chungjeong-no, western Seoul, on Thursday, claiming that the company has violated the Labor Standards Act.|
Park Gi-il, head of the labor union of Zuellig Pharma Korea and vice president of the Korea Democratic Pharmaceutical Union, staged a single-person protest at the French embassy to demand that the company’s executives in personnel and operation divisions who came to the negotiation table step down.
Although Zuellig Pharma is a Swiss firm, he chose the French embassy as the protest site because the head of its Korean unit is from France, he said.
Park blasted Christophe Piganiol, general manager of Zuellig Pharma Korea, saying he ignored Korea’s labor law and treated Korean employees like “dogs and pigs.”
The company is in a legal battle against some irregular workers who claimed that the company coerced them illegal labor, filling a lawsuit to be recognized as regular workers.
A Zuellig Pharma executive reportedly faced a fine, after getting sued by a worker for ordering extended-hour work beyond the legal limit without extra pay. The labor union claims that Piganiol avoided a punishment by saying that he did not order the executive to make the employee work for an additional time.
“Even though Piganiol comes from a country where management and labor relations are advanced, his mindset toward a labor union is quite substandard. He is not abiding by the Korean law and acting arbitrarily,” Park said. “Although Zuellig Pharma is a Swiss firm, I thought French people should feel embarrassed because of him. That is why I came to the French embassy.”
Park argued Piganiol’s assertion that he did not order extra time work on employees was a tactic to hand over the blame to his subordinate and make him face punishment instead.
“With the one-person protest, union employees at the sales department will refuse to go to work. We plan to wage a protest in front of Pianiol’s house this week. After that, we are considering an all-out strike,” he said.
During last year’s wage talks, the labor union accepted the management’s stance when the management said the company could not raise salary because the 2015 net profit remained below 2 billion won ($1.8 million), Park noted.
However, the net profit more than tripled last year, and the prescription drug sales per salesperson also tripled, he said. “The management is saying that the company is facing a difficult year, without considering the last year’s performance,” he added.
The recommendation by the Seoul National Labor Relations Commission – the 3.1 percent hike in basic salary and 1.5 million won payment for a deal agreement – was what the management had agreed on. However, it later changed the numbers to 3 percent and 500,000 won, Park said, adding that he has a recorded audio file.
Park also said the management was illegally using irregular workers for too long and some of the irregular workers have worked for up to seven years without a change in their worker status. “If it were another company, such executives would have been fired. But the company is still taking a wait-and-see approach, waiting for the result of the lawsuit,” he said.
“The company’s executives, who hurt the relations between management and labor, should be replaced. They are splitting unionists and giving disadvantages in personnel evaluation. The company’s head has become a monster, breaking the law and making arbitrary decisions. After January, we’re considering a general strike,” Park said.
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