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Pernod Ricard employees accuse senior exec of abuse

June 05,2018
A senior executive at Pernod Ricard Korea, which sells popular liquors such as Absolut vodka and Jameson whiskey, is under fire from the company’s labor union for allegedly mistreating employees.

On Monday, the labor union of the French distiller’s Korean operation released eight handwritten statements that described a senior executive’s verbal assaults of employees both inside and outside the office. One statement accused the executive of ordering an employee to chew gum that was in the executive’s mouth because he was “in a bad mood.”

In a voice recording the union shared on the same day, a man, allegedly the executive in question, curses in a phone call with a subordinate. The executive has been working for the sales department in the last two years and is an ethnic Korean with foreign citizenship, according to the union.

A different statement released on Friday also accused him of sexual harassment. The executive allegedly told an employee suffering from subfertility that she should “have sex to the point of leaving nail scratches on her husband’s back in order to have a child.”

The union claims that an oppressive work atmosphere where sales representatives were pushed to the breaking point was a norm at the company under Jean Touboul, who became chief executive of Pernod Ricard Korea in September 2016.

After listening to a voice recording of the executive cursing, the union said that Touboul defended the executive, saying that one recording can’t generalize his behavior and that his outburst was “one sort of leadership to encourage sales results.”

“It’s not just about the sales reps but a general atmosphere at the company that condoned such actions,” said Lee Kang-ho, the labor union’s vice president.

In an official response on Friday, Pernod Ricard Korea denied all the accusations raised by the union as “ungrounded.” It said it had conducted an internal investigation that found no evidence of sexual harassment.

The labor union said that employees faced mounting pressure and excessive work hours to raise sales, adding that Pernod Ricard Korea’s harsh environment caused nine employees to take sick leaves last year. The union claims that one of them committed suicide due to stress. Pernod Ricard Korea said that it is not allowed to discuss employees’ personal issues due to privacy concerns.

The union also said that 45 employees left the company after Touboul took over in 2016. Pernod Ricard Korea currently has around 270 employees.

“Things have gone too far,” said the union’s chairman, Kim Guee-hyun. “Our sales reps work 12 hours a day, but the CEO believes we work longer hours due to lack of efficiency.”

The union plans to file reports with government offices.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]