Posted : 2015-02-09 16:51
Updated : 2015-02-10 13:52

Anti-McDonald's protests continue

A group of activists protest inside a McDonald's outlet in Sinchon, Seoul, Saturday, against what they claim is the firm's exploitation of part-time workers. / Yonhap

By Jung Min-ho

The leader of protests against McDonald's "culture of exploitation" of young part-time workers vowed Monday to continue fighting until the firm corrects its practices.

"If the company doesn't respond to our demands, we will continue to raise our voice on the streets," Lee Hae-jung, secretary general of the Arbeit Workers Union (AWU), told The Korea Times. "After our protest on Friday, we are waiting for a response from McDonald's. Another protest will be held."

A group of part-time workers occupied a McDonald's outlet in Shinchon, near Yonsei University, Saturday, to demand "higher wages, fair working conditions and union activities within the company."

"We have received many favorable reactions since then, especially from those who work at other fast-food restaurants," Lee said. "Many showed empathy when we said it is unfair that most of employees at one of the world's biggest companies eke out a living on minimum wage."

In response, McDonald's said it did not break any laws in hiring and managing its employees.

"What the union is saying is a complete distortion. McDonald's clearly abides by the Labor Law," the company said.

In December, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board's Office of the General Counsel also filed complaints against McDonald's, accusing it of labor violations.

Complaints were filed in 78 cases, claiming that McDonald's workers in the U.S. were fired or intimidated for participating in union organizing and in a national protest movement calling for higher wages.

Most McDonald's workers in Korea earn a minimum hourly wage of 5,580 won ($5.10). Meanwhile, the company had a profit of $5.5 billion on sales of $27.5 billion in 2012.

The AWU wants a wage increase to 10,000 won an hour.

The organization believes that in countries where big companies such as McDonald's only offer the minimum wage, smaller firms are unlikely raise wages for workers.

"The company claims that it considers its employees its biggest assets. But it actually doesn't," the AWU said. "The CEO of the global company makes enormous amounts of money, but he seems to care little about the people who work for him."

The company also arbitrarily adjusted rosters to save money and often failed to deliver paychecks on time, the AWU said.

According to a survey in December, 64 percent of McDonald's workers experienced arbitrary roster adjustments and 22 percent had paycheck delays.

The AWU said many workers were often asked to leave work before closing if there were few things to do.

It said the protest was initiated when McDonald's fired Lee Ga-hyun, 21, a casual worker, for reporting arbitrary adjustments to her work schedule to the AWU.

But the National Labor Relation Commission ruled early this month that the dismissal was lawful as Lee failed to provide the level of labor that she was contracted to.

The AWU insisted that the ruling was made based on false claims by McDonald's.

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