SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won faced a group of labor unionists protesting against the company’s bonus plan while attending the completion ceremony of SK Hynix’s new plant M16 on Monday at the company’s headquarters in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province. The SK Hynix union was protesting that the performance pay, which is equivalent to 400% of basic salary, is not enough compared to that of competitors and the company’s performance last year. An SK Hynix employee, who has been working for the company for four years, reportedly sent a complaint e-mail to the entire 28,000 employees, including CEO Lee Seok-hee.
“I failed to understand the pain (of the employees). I apologize for the lack of communication, too. I hope the hard work of those who put their best efforts for M16 will not be diminished by the internal pain of Hynix,” said Chairman Chey after listening carefully to what the employees had to say, according to some employees who were at the scene.
In particular, Chairman Chey drew attention by saying he will return his salary received from Hynix. As of 2019, he received about 3 billion won in salary and incentives combined. His remarks were the talk of the town among SK Hynix employees on the day.
In business world, the controversy over SK Hynix’s bonus plan is seen as a generational conflict with millennials. “For a younger worker to send a complaint e-mail to the CEO of a company was something difficult to imagine in the past,” said an official in the industry. “It is also unconventional for a chairman to say on the spot that he will return his salary in response to the complaint.”
“Hynix’s annual salary is never less than that of its affiliates, but the controversy appears to have been caused by the relative deprivation and unclear performance pay standards,” said another industry insider.