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(LEAD) Hanjin Group chief voices displeasure with pilots via SNS comment

All Headlines 18:24 March 14, 2016

(ATTN: CORRECTS date in lead; ADDS PR team's response at bottom; ADDS file photo)

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- The chief of Hanjin Group, the operator of South Korea's No. 1 flag carrier Korean Air Lines Co., has voiced displeasure with his pilots demanding better working conditions, in a rare comment posted on a popular social network service.

The comment by Chairman Cho Yang-ho was a response to a Facebook post made Sunday by one of the Korean Air pilots who detailed grueling post-flight proceedings that he has to go through before entering a cockpit. He and other Korean Air pilots have been on a "work-to-rule" struggle since a majority of their union members voted for a strike last month.

"This (post) is full of jargon but there is nothing new about 99 percent of it. Briefings are done by flight dispatchers and weather conditions are analyzed by operation centers," Cho said in his comment posted late Sunday.

"What pilots have to do is just to decide on the go or no-go, but are you saying that it is hard? Flying is done by the auto pilot, which is easier than driving a car," he added. "Only in case of an emergency do we need pilots. You are exaggerating too much."

It is rare for the head of a large conglomerate to respond through a social network service to his employees and more so to see such comments many perceive as sarcastic.

His comments drew immediate criticism from pilots.

They claimed that what the chairman said is totally untrue, saying they have never received any briefing from flight dispatchers and expressing their surprise at the level of his understanding of their work. Their labor union said that they are considering a libel suit against him.

The latest online tit-for-tat comes as the rift between labor and management at Korean Air have 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.

The labor union demanded the decision be withdrawn, calling it an "unjustifiable" punishment based on his union activities and vowing to take all necessary steps in response.

The company, separately, requested a court injunction over the recently-held vote for a strike, claiming the vote is "invalid" due to procedural problems, while filing a libel suit against some union members for carrying stickers disparaging the company with what they view as groundless rumors.

Both sides have been at odds over how much the salary of pilots should be increased, as pilots are currently demanding 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.

Korean Air's PR team said Monday that Chairman Cho seems to try to share his opinions based on long experience in the aviation sector that working conditions for pilots have improved much thanks to state-of-the-art technology designed to support flights.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
(END)

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