Chanel Korea employees to begin strike next week

Chanel Korea employees to begin strike next week

Chanel Korea’s employees protest at the French luxury brand’s cosmetics counter at a local department store in Seoul on Oct. 10. Korea Times file

By Kim Jae-heun

Chanel Korea’s employees working in the cosmetics sector have announced that they will go on strike indefinitely from Dec. 17, calling for improvements in their working environment.

The French luxury firm’s labor union here held a press conference on Tuesday to request bonuses for their contribution to successful online sales, as well as the guaranteeing of legal paid holidays. The union said that it will stop its protest if the company accepts its proposal.

“We demand that the company not take all the profits alone that we took part in generating, and instead to pay us the proper wages that we deserve,” Chanel Korea’s union representative, Kim So-yeon said. “We are protesting because Chanel Korea is not properly paying us for our labor.”

Currently, there are 390 union members among the 480 staff working at Chanel cosmetics stores within local department stores, as well as duty free shops.

On the same day, the union also reported Chanel’s Korean branch to the Ministry of Employment and Labor for violation of the Labor Standards Act and the Labor Relations Adjustment Act.

It alleged that the company has not been paying staff wages, when employees took leaves, as specified in the Labor Act. The union further noted that it will file a complaint against Chanel Korea at the OECD’s Korean office, for breaching the guidelines for multinational companies as related to non-government organizations.

Prior to the protest, Chanel Korea’s union went on a general strike during the Korea’s Chuseok holidays in September, together with the staff of L’Oreal Korea and Shiseido Korea. A total of 400 workers joined the protest and the operations of 80 Chanel Korea cosmetics stores were affected.

However, Chanel Korea refuted its labor union’s allegations.

“Despite our 81-percent year-on-year plunge in duty-free business sales in 2020 ― affected by COVID-19 ― we have worked hard to stabilize our employment system without soliciting involuntary resignations,” Chanel Korea said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Over the past 11 months, we have been doing our best to find common ground with the union and to settle the wages issue. Also, it isn’t true that we did not properly pay employees for legal holiday work leaves, nor has there been habitual sexual harassment occurring in our offices.”

Meanwhile, in Sept. 2020, Chanel Korea’s labor union reported a series of alleged sex crimes committed by a senior manager in his 40s, and an investigation of the matter is still ongoing.

The manager is accused of sexually harassing a number of female workers over the course of 10 years. The man still works at the company and Chanel Korea refused to place him under internal investigation but rather outsourced the probe to a private law firm here.

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