KAL pilots strike feared to disrupt Chuseok travel

KAL pilots strike feared to disrupt Chuseok travel Posted
: 2017-09-22 16:39Updated : 2017-09-22 17:55


By Kang Seung-woo

Travelers fear that a planned strike by Korean Air pilots during the 10-day Chuseok holiday will cause a great deal of inconvenience for travelers flying with Korea's largest flagship carrier.

The carrier said Friday the planned strike will likely begin on Oct. 1 for a seven-day run and 390 pilots out of the 2,300 pilots of the nation's largest air carrier are expected to join the strike. This would inevitably disrupt some flights during the holiday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 9.

The airline must maintain 80 percent of its international flights and 50 percent of its domestic flights along with 70 percent of its flights to Jeju Island.

Korean Air is designated as a public essential service in accordance with the 2010 revision to the aviation law, so up to 20 percent of the union pilots could take part in the strike.

Since October 2015, the pilots' union and the company have engaged in negotiations over wage hikes, but to no avail.

The union demands a retroactive 4-percent pay increase for 2015 and 7-percent hike for 2016 plus performance-related pay, while management has offered a 1.9-percent increase over 2015 and 3.2 percent for 2016 along with new incentives.

Korean Air pilots earn an average of 150 million won ($132,000) in wages.

"The union has continued making incremental concessions to wrap up the stalled talks, but management shows no signs of change in its position," the union said.

It called for a 37 percent hike in 2015, but reduced its demand to 29 percent last year.

Korean Air says the planned strike is "unjustified."

"The union should have put the strike plan to a vote according to relevant laws, but it failed," the company said in a press statement.

Amid growing transport disruptions, Korean Air vowed to prevent any inconvenience from the envisaged strike, fully using available pilots, including foreigners. The company also said it will not close the window for negotiations with union members.

The strike, if held as planned, would be the second of its kind following the previous walkout staged last December in protest against the drawn-out negotiation with management over retroactive wages for 2015. However, some 150 pilots joined it.

In March, the pilots' union planned to go on a week-long strike after their negotiations for a wage hike fell through, but it was called off after the airline's president, Walter Cho, met with the union, creating a conciliatory mood.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be another major blow to the airline that is already struggling with China's travel ban on all group tours to Korea in response to Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. -led missile system.

Due to the ban, Korean Air plans to reduce the number of flights to China later this year.