Monday, March 14, 2016

Hanjin boss ‘defamed’ pilots, says Korean Air union

Cho Yang-ho, the chairman of Hanjin Group which runs Korean Air, has been accused of “defaming” pilots on Facebook. 

The union representing Korean Air pilots is currently involved in a wage dispute with management. Talks broke down in January. 

A message posted on Facebook on Sunday - from an individual identified only as a co-pilot of Korean Air with the surname Kim - explained the work that pilots do prior to a flight.

Cho posted a reply that read, “It is full of technical words, but 99 percent of these aren’t new and pilots get briefed … by flight control managers while the operation center analyzes weather. What pilots do is just decide ‘go [or] no go,’ and you are saying this is a hard job? It is much easier than driving a car since it [the airplane] operates by an autopilot system.

“We need pilots in serious emergencies,” Cho added. “You are showing off … like you are [Charles] Lindbergh who crossed the Atlantic for the first time. Stop disgracing other pilots [who are] working hard.” 

As the issue snowballed on Monday, the message was erased. However, pictures that captured the comments had already been spread to pilots, according to the union. 

“We are very surprised that our chairman sees us in this way,” a union spokesman said. “The company filed a lawsuit against the union leader and some leadership members only because they put stickers on their bags which read, ‘The company is in the red and the chairman is the only one making money,’ but it looks like the chairman defamed pilots this time.”

The union, which decided to resume wage negotiations last week, wants the company to raise salaries by 37 percent from the previous year, while the company is offering a 1.9 percent raise. The 37 percent raise will make the average wage 140 million won ($118,000), which is about a 51.8 million won rise from the previous year. 

The pilots are demanding a huge wage raise because their salaries are low compared to other airlines in the United States (163 million won) and Japan (176 million won). However, Korean Air pilots are receiving the highest salaries of employees in Korean conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai Motor Group. 

The salary issue is forcing pilots to look elsewhere. Last year, 46 Korean Air pilots moved to China. 

The company said the current market situation does not allow it to consider such a wage demand.

Korean Air has already lost many of its passengers to low-cost carriers. That has led the company to shut down deficit-making routes, including the Gimpo-Gwangju line in the domestic market. Chinese and Middle Eastern airlines are taking the company’s market share in international flights. 

Non-pilot Korean Air labor unions have already agreed to the company’s 1.9 percent raise offer. 

Original article can be found here: http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com

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