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HMM workers close wage deal, scrap strike

  • The 77-day labor dispute comes to an end
  • Workers get a 7.9% pay increase and incentives of up to 650% of their monthly wages

HMM Co., South Korea’s biggest container shipping line, and its labor union arrived at a wage deal on September 2, ending their 77-day labor dispute and averting a feared maritime shipping crisis.

Yonhap News Agency reported that according to HMM, the two parties have agreed on a 7.9% pay increase and incentives of up to 650% of workers’ monthly wages.

The labor and management started negotiations on June 18 but had difficulty in narrowing their differences.

After their pay talks fell through, the two unions of HMM—a sea-based workers’ union and a land-based workers’ union—voted for a strike to press the management to solve the wage dispute.

The agreement on September 2 comes after the workers earlier suspended plans to stage a strike and agreed to return to the negotiating table with management on September 1 to thresh out wage issues.

The disgruntled workers on August 24 had threatened to hold a labor strike and even resign en masse if their demand for pay raises was not met.

They claimed they had been underpaid compared to workers at rival companies and their wages had been frozen for up to eight years.

HMM, meanwhile, posted record earnings over the April-June period on the back of rising freight costs. Its operating profit rose 10 times from a year earlier to about KRW1.4 trillion (US$1.2 billion) in the April-June period.

A shipping disruption caused by an HMM workers’ strike could devastate exporters amid a dire shortage of container carriers and further fan shipping rates.

Photo by Alf van Beem

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