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KB, union fail to agree on major issues after strike

Jan 12,2019
The management and labor union at KB Kookmin Bank found some middle ground on Friday following a strike earlier this week, reaching an agreement on the conditions for early retirement.

Still, conflict remains over other issues like the wage system, which could prompt a planned second strike to take place.

KB Kookmin Bank, the country’s largest bank, said that the company and labor union agreed on the subject and specific benefits of the bank’s early retirement policy.

Anyone born before 1966 will be entitled to apply for the voluntary early retirement program that is designed to encourage senior workers to retire early with more generous bonuses. For people holding the position of team leader, the threshold is 1965.

Applicants are eligible to obtain an additional severance bonus package of up to 39 months. The discussion on voluntary retirement was expected to face challenges in reaching a consensus because management and labor union are in a dispute over different issues.

Some industry insiders say that the agreement sends a positive signal for future negotiations. After the walkout on Tuesday, KB’s management entered another round of discussions with the labor union.

The unionized members set a deadline for Jan. 13. If there is no breakthrough by then, the union will go on a second round of walkouts from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. If realized, the planned collective action will likely have a greater impact on customers than the first one because it is planned right before the Lunar New Year’s holiday, which runs from Feb. 4 to 6.

The bank’s management made a concession on bonuses, but the two sides clashed over the company’s wage system. A major issue still at stake concerns when the bank will implement a measure called the wage peak system that involves a gradual reduction in salary when senior employees pass a certain age. The age of implementation is contested.

The union demands that the wage peak should be applied to employees from age 56, which is one year later than the government standard of 55.

The company and its union also don’t see eye to eye over an expansion of a wage system that caps wage increases if a worker keeps on failing to be promoted. The union said that the system should be abolished.

A spokesperson at KB Kookmin Bank said that the company wants to negotiate the issues on the table with the union, declining to mention the specific stance of the company.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]