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Korean Air pilots rally to demand active wage talks

All Headlines 16:46 March 08, 2016

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Pilots of Korean Air Lines Co., South Korea's largest flag carrier, staged a rally on Tuesday, urging their company to get more actively involved in wage talks which have almost stalled amid a growing rift in relations between labor and management.

More than 200 pilots from Korean Air gathered in front of their headquarters in central Seoul. Dozens of pilots and non-pilot employees from second-ranked Asiana Airlines Inc. also joined the rally in solidarity.

"We are not demanding (money) from a poor person. How could they say that we are asking too much at a time when we are demanding just one thirtieth of the chairman's salary," Lee Kyu-nam, head of the Korean Air pilot union said at the rally.

Both sides have been at odds over how much their salary should be increased for pilots, which currently demand a 37 percent hike in wages. The company proposed a 1.9 percent increase, which it said is on par with the wage growth rate for other non-pilot workers.

As they failed to iron out the differences, a majority of Korean Air pilots voted for a strike in mid-February and started the so-called work-to-rule campaign in which they stick to all work-related rules and regulations.

The rift between labor and management at Korean Air has been deepening, especially since the airline company recently decided to sack a pilot for hampering its business operations by joining the ongoing work-to-rule campaign. It also asked a court injunction over the recently-held vote for a strike, claiming the vote is "invalid" due to procedural problems.

The labor union demanded the decision be withdrawn, calling it an "unjustifiable" punishment based on his union activities, and also vowing to take all necessary steps in response.

A labor dispute at Korean Air usually draws criticism as they are seen as demanding more in addition to their already high salaries. Some tend to look askance at them, saying they are holding public transportation hostage to push for their own interests.

In the wake of their 2005 strike and resulting backlash from customers, the government designated the airline industry as critical to the public interest, making it almost impossible for its unions to go on a full strike by obliging them to keep certain levels of flights up and running under any circumstances.

Korean Air pilots have been complaining about their tight flight schedules and relatively small salaries compared to those of foreign airlines, a gap they cite as the main reason for many of their coworkers leaving for higher-paying jobs, mostly in China.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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