Unionized workers of Hanwha Total Petrochemicals Co. went on a general strike on March 23 after their wage talks with the management fell apart. The union plans to continue the walkout through 7 a.m. on March 28.
Beginning last August, Hanwha Total’s management and labor union held 11 meetings on a pay hike, but the gap was way too big. The union asked for a 10.3 percent increase while the management counter-offered a mere 2.3 percent. Workers eventually cut their demand to some 8 percent, but the company refused to accept it, claiming that the company’s competitors increased wage on an average of 2 percent last year.
According to Hanwha Total, the average annual wage of its employees was 120 million (US$105,820) last year, the highest level in Korea. The management added that the average performance bonus paid to each employee came to 40 million won (US$35,273) as it paid out 1,320 percent of bonuses for three years in a row.
However, the labor union countered that the figures are still low in light of the company’s business performance so far.
The strike is not likely to paralyze the firm’s operations because the plant can be operated with a minimum number of workers who have agreed not to join the strike in contract and non-unionists through emergency duty. However, if the strife continues, Hanwha Total is expected to suffer setbacks because out of its 1,700 workers, more than 800 joined the trade union.
A spokesperson of Hanhwa Total said, “We are planning to start routine maintenance for the Plant 1 from March 27 to May 7.”