Novo Nordisk workers in Korea protest after breakdown in salary and perks negotiations — report
While inflation is up globally, a few pharmas have been getting hit by union complaints over pay raises that are below inflation rates. Now another Big Pharma is facing a potential strike.
As first reported by Korea Biomedical Review, 100 unionized Novo Nordisk Korea workers gathered in front of the company’s headquarters in Seoul earlier Thursday to protest a failed end to wage negotiations and cuts to some employee incentives. The union has a total of 118 Novo Nordisk employees.
The union had been picketing since June 14. According to union officials, Novo Nordisk Korea management changed its sales representatives’ incentive system and refused to reimburse fuel costs for managers. The union workers also filed a complaint with Korea’s labor and employment ministry regarding those changes.
It all started, according to union leader Huh Nam-jin, last year after management and the union agreed to an average wage increase of 4.5%. However, not citing a specific timeline, “the management recently changed its proposal and proposed a 1.5 percent increase instead,” Huh said. The union leader added in Korea Biomedical Review’s reporting:
The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) proposed a 2.5 percent increase as a mediation plan, but we cannot accept it because the union had set the wage increase rate every year until now.
“The union wants its members to feel they are receiving fair wages and working in a democratic, fair, and mutually respectful organizational,” Huh said.
Although not documented, Korea Biomedical Review added that according to Huh, the union decided on the minimum wage increase rate every year, and the management acknowledged it.
Novo Nordisk did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Endpoints News.
Sanofi has also had issues in Korea after union leaders threatened a strike early last month over similar circumstances. The union, also according to Korea Biomedical Review, was offered a 1.5% raise from Sanofi in keeping with inflation. Union leaders cited their own inflation numbers as well as increases in Korean sales during the pandemic, originally seeking a 7% pay hike and then lowering the demand to 4%.
However, according to that union, Sanofi flatly refused.
Pharma operations in Korea are not alone in dealing with union negotiations and strike threats. GSK was facing a strike not even three months ago, as more than 1,000 of GSK’s engineers, technicians, laboratory analysts, warehouse employees and other workers in the UK voted 86% in favor to go on strike after what they called “a derisory” pay increase of 2.75% was offered.
Just over a month later, GSK increased their pay offer to 10.5%, which workers accepted and effectively ended the strike.