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Paris Baguette lands upon possible hiring fix

Dec 05,2017
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The deadline is looming for Paris Baguette to address the way it hires bakers, but the conflict between the company and bakers is nowhere near reaching an agreement within time.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor has set Dec. 5 as the deadline for the nation’s top bakery chain to change how it hires some 5,300 bakers across the nation, from indirect employment to direct employment.

Back in September, the ministry concluded that Paris Baguette had violated labor law by giving orders to bakers at its outlets who were affiliated with outsourcing agencies. According to Korean law, the agencies should have been managing the bakers.

The ministry ordered Paris Baguette to therefore directly hire its own bakers and improve their working conditions. If it does not comply, Paris Baguette will have to pay a penalty of 10 million won ($9,200) per worker.

Paris Baguette on Friday launched a joint corporation tentatively titled Happy Partners as an alternative to upending its hiring system. Invested in by Paris Baguette, the franchise owners and outsourcing agencies, this third-party corporation will work as a new outsourcing agency for the bakers.

The working environment for the bakers will see significant improvement, according to the company.

“The accumulated service years and retirement program for each baker will be entirely acknowledged [at Happy Partners], while their salaries will go up by 13.1 percent,” said Paris Baguette in a statement. “All sorts of welfare benefits will get enhanced as well.”

By integrating 11 subcontractors, the company will form a larger workforce pool, providing a more flexible supply of bakers. It will eventually guarantee up to eight days off each month, the company said. According to the franchise headquarters, 3,700 bakers have already objected to the government’s direct hiring system, and a majority want to join the newly launched Happy Partners.

The Ministry of Labor said those who oppose the direct hiring system will be excluded from the penalty calculation. Through Happy Partners, Paris Baguette will be able to reduce the penalty fee from an expected 53 billion won ($48.8 million) to 16 billion won.

“We have held some 50 explanation sessions for our bakers about Happy Partners since October,” said an SPC official. “This system reflects diverse parties’ demands. And we will continue to hold explanation sessions for those who have yet to voice their opinion about the new system.”

A group of bakers who are part of the progressive Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, however, claimed the numbers announced by Paris Baguette are not genuine.

“The agreement that Paris Baguette claims is signed by the bakers who object to direct hiring is not valid because it is based on coercion and unidentified facts,” said the union.

On Friday, the union delivered a withdrawal document signed by some 170 bakers who had originally agreed to object to the direct hiring system. The union reportedly is joined by some 700 bakers.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]