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HMM seafarers step up pay protest, and now office staff also vote to strike

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SEOUL (!st September 2021) : At 8 pm Seoul time, seafarers working for Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) began a picket protest from two of the Korean flagship carrier’s ships in Busan port, even as their union leaders continued negotiations with management.

On 22 August, some 450 of HMM’s 600 seafarers voted on industrial action, and more than 92% of them opted for a strike.

And yesterday, HMM’s management received another manpower blow when 98% of its 755 unionized office staff voted to strike.

The union has received resignation letters from 317 of the seafarers, all expressing an inclination to join Swiss-Italian operator MSC, which is offering 2.5 times what HMM is paying.

The seafarers’ union held back on the strike and resignations after HMM’s management pushed to resume discussions, which began at 2pm Seoul time today.

Both the company’s seafaring and office staff want salaries raised by 25% and are reportedly unhappy about a pay rise of just 2% in 2020 after wages were frozen between 2011 and 2019, due to HMM’s poor performance in those years.

The unionized seafarers have rejected an offer of an 8% rise, a bonus amounting to 300% of their wages, and a 200% productivity incentive in 2022.

A HMM spokesman told The Loadstar: “What’s certain is that both sides are aiming for negotiations, not for a strike. Talks will continue.”

At 2pm Seoul time today, Kim Jin-man and Jang Jong-geum, the heads of the staff unions, began talks with HMM president Bae Jae-hoon, hoping to narrow the gap in salary expectations.

However, the seafarers, unable to withhold their frustrations, went ahead with the protest.

At 8 pm, four-hour protests began on the Hyundai Brave and HMM Rotterdam, and will continue from 10am to 6pm Seoul time tomorrow on HMM Gdansk.

To demonstrate their solidarity, seafarers from KMTC Line, Korea Line Corporation, SK Shipping, and H-Line Shipping, which are affiliated with the Association of Korea Seafarers Union, will join the protests.

Industrial action is banned on ships in operation, so the seafarers can only protest on anchored vessels.

The seafarers also claim HMM did not comply with the rest time stipulated under the Maritime Labour Convention, and plan to voice their grievances to the Ministry of Employment and Labour.

Their union said: “Seafarers are supposed to work a maximum of 313 hours a month, including overtime … but some employees work over 320 hours and do not receive any [extra] pay or rest.”

HMM has said it could lose $580m if its operations were paralyzed by industrial action, which would be a first in the company’s 45-year history.

Source : Loadstar

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