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Pilots, Why Are You Doing This Again?

Posted December. 08, 2005 02:59,   


The Korean Air Lines (KAL) pilot union will start a complete strike starting on December 8, raising concerns about an “airline crisis” in the face of the upcoming year-end high season.

In particular, public opinion criticizing the pilots--who are already paid annual salaries over 100 million won—is growing for waging a strike demanding higher wages. The strike is far from a strike for basic rights, and the decision to strike will inflict great damage to the national economy.

On December 7, KAL employers and union held negotiations on major issues, including next year’s salary raises, but did not reach an agreement. Hence, the union will wage a strike starting on midnight, December 8.

While the union requested an eight percent raise in wages, the company offered a three percent hike. On the other hand, on December 6, the union put to a vote whether or not to strike, and with 1,126 members out of 1,344 participating, the results were 79.9 percent in favor of striking.

Minister of Construction and Transportation Choo Byung-jik announced plans for strict counter-measures, saying, “After considering the serious and great damage to the national economy and lives of Koreans caused by the strike, strong and strict measures will be actively pursued, including exerting emergency mediation authority.”

If emergency mediation authority is exerted, the strike will immediately stop, and all the strikes following it will be illegal and punished.

The Point of Dispute is a Wage Increase—

The union demanded an eight percent raise for this year’s whole salary, in comparison with last year’s. They claim, “This year, prices of commodities went up by 3.5 percent, economic growth is estimated to be 4.5 percent, and what we demand is lower than the sum of them.”

The company is offering a three percent raise in total salary. Oil prices have surged, costing the company an additional 500 billion won, and with the AI outbreak, business conditions have worsened. The company cites these reasons for not accepting the union’s demands.

“If we accept the union’s demands, besides the average annual salary of 120 million won, pilots and co-pilots will receive an additional 22.36 million won and 16.84 million won, respectively, including bonuses,” claimed the company.

The union also argued the article, which allows the company to cut flight allowances before punitive actions are decided on when a pilot is absent without notice or refuses to board, should be abolished.

In response, the company countered, “We are paying 75 hours worth of flight allowances if a pilot completes at least over 30 hours of normal duty without personal fault. In addition, we cannot accept the demand to pay allowances, even when pilots are regularly or deliberately absent.”

Worries of an Airline Crisis—

The company announced that due to the strike, about 74 percent of domestic flights and 20 percent of international flights would be cancelled. In case of cargo planes, 24 out of 31 planes, or 77 percent, will not be operating.

When negotiations on this day broke down, the union moved about 200 of its members gathered in Gaehwasan Park, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, to an education center near Incheon International Airport, preparing for a long stand off.

On December 8, the company prepared an emergency operation plan by canceling 150 out of 202 domestic flights and 30 out of 154 international flights.

In other words, all 101 inland domestic flights will be cancelled, and 49 of 101 flights to Jeju Island will be cancelled. As for international flights, 30 flights out of 154, including those headed to Dallas and Nagoya, will be cancelled.

Damage to the Economy—

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy estimate that due to the strike, about 70 percent of KAL’s flights will not fly, causing a daily loss of 50 billion won in exports, and about 44,000 flyers, 21,000 international and 23,000 domestic, will not be transported.

In addition, considering tangible losses to tourism and export industries, as well as intangible losses such as national credit ratings, the damage will only snowball.

As of last year, KAL, focusing mainly on mid- and long flights, flew 40.6 percent of all international passengers, 48.1 percent of all international cargo, and 65.2% of all domestic passengers almost double those of Asiana Airlines. Therefore, the company and the government estimate that losses will be far greater than Asiana’s strike in August of this year.