Korean Air pilots begun a 10-day strike from 0:00 am on the 22nd to 12:00 am on 31st. It is the first walkout by unionized Korean Air pilots in 11 years.
During a wage negotiation between labor and management which began in October last year, the company offered a 1.9 percent increase. Even at the 9th round of talks that took place on the 9th this month, it stuck to a .9 percent increase, saying that other general employees accepted a 1.9 percent pay raise and the pilots union should also accept it considering fairness.
The Korean Air Pilots Union recently reduced its request for wage hike from 37 percent to 29 percent, claiming that real wages need to be increased in order to prevent the outflow of experienced pilots overseas and improve the inappropriate structure that only chaebol management enjoys earnings. Lee Gyu-nam, head of the pilots' union, said, “Our demand for the significant raise is rather symbolic. We want the company to look and consider the market situations at the moment when the continuous outflow of pilots every year are threating our safety.”
There are said to be about 2,300 pilots working for Korean Air, excluding 200 pilots on leave. However, a complete work stoppage by pilots is prohibited under Korean law. Less than 20 percent, or some 480, of them can take part in the strike because airlines are categorized as one of the country’s critical industries, meaning that at least 80 percent of a company’s international flight operations must be maintained even during strikes. The labor union said only 189 pilots participated in the strike to prevent the accumulation of fatigue of those who will continue to work over the period.
Over the next 10 days, the strike is expected to lead to the cancellation of as many as 135 passenger flights – 111 domestic and 24 international flights – and 12 cargo flights, maintaining an operation rate of 93 percent. On December 22, the first strike day, Korean Air Lines canceled 18 flights – four international and 14 domestic flights – on December 22 as unionized pilots went into a strike.
The strike comes as more Korean pilots are moving to foreign airlines. As actual wages of pilots decreased, more than 100 Korean pilots are leaving for foreign airlines with better labor conditions every year.
Meanwhile, American pop singer Richard Marx, who was on a transfer flight back to Los Angeles via Incheon, posted an incident that he had to restrain an unruly passenger on a Korean Air flight from Hanoi to Incheon. He said over the social networking service on the 20th, “A passenger who seems to be mentally unstable attacked other passengers and crew. Crew completely ill trained to worst situations.”
Flight attendants tried to subdue the violent man by roping but he got loose from their rope restraints three times and they didn’t use the Taser. As a result, the disturbance lasted about an hour and other passengers were anxious. The intoxicated passenger was only to be restrained by other passengers who stepped in including Richard Marx.