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Fast food workers occupy McDonald’s restaurant in protest

Photo: Courtesy of the Part Time Workers Union
Philip Iglauer
Written by Philip Iglauer

Part time fast food restaurant workers occupied a McDonald’s in Shinchon near Yonsei University on Feb. 7 to protest what they described as unfair working conditions, low wages and late pay.

Part time fast food restaurant workers occupied a McDonald’s in Shinchon near Yonsei University on Feb. 7 to protest what they described as unfair working conditions, low wages and late pay.

The workers marched from the front gate of Sogang University, located down the street, to the McDonald’s restaurant in the center of the Shinchon commercial district. Some of the protestors shouted slogans, such as “Part-timers deserve better than minimum wage!” and “Part-timers are people, too!”

Joe Erlinger, Managing Director McDonald's Korea

Joe Erlinger, Managing Director McDonald’s Korea

Protestors inside the restaurant reportedly said that McDonald’s fills every restaurant position, even administrative ones, with temporary workers to cut costs.

McDonald’s workers in Korea earn a minimum hourly wage of 5,580 won ($5.1). The part-time workers cooking, cleaning, preparing and ringing up orders at McDonald’s earn 334,800 won a month.

The part-timers are demanding a wage increase to 10,000 won per hour. That would mean McDonald’s part-time workers would earn 600,000 won a month.

The company also arbitrarily adjusts schedules, sometimes on a day-to-day basis, in order to keep workers’ 60-hours-a-month part-time status and frequently fail to deliver paychecks on time, protesters said.

The protesting part-timers said this labor-management conflict at McDonald’s Korea operation started last year in November when Lee Ga-hyun, a 21-year-old temp worker, was fired for reporting arbitrary adjustments of her work schedule to the labor union, Part Time Workers Union (PTWU).

PTWU said that 65 percent of McDonald’s workers experience arbitrary schedules adjustments and 22 percent delays of their paychecks.

If any McDonald’s manager behaves in an abusive manner, we are asking workers to report it to us,” said PTWU Secretary-General Lee Hae-jung. “We are putting McDonald’s on notice that they should get their act together and do something about improving the working conditions for part-timers”

One current McDonald’s worker who declined to give his name argued that temporary workers are worth at least as much as 10,000 won an hour.

“McDonald’s works us like machines but pays us nothing but minimum wage. This has got to change,” he said.

McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in South Korea in 1988, on the eve of the Summer Olympics in Seoul.

About the author

Philip Iglauer

Philip Iglauer

Philip Iglauer is a journalist with years of experience as the diplomatic affairs reporter at The Korea Herald and The Korea Times. Seoul, South Korea.

  • Randall Stevens

    Replace them with machines.

  • smithington

    Not one story about this has bothered to include what happened when they went to the labour board to complain about these labour practices. Good to see that, as expected, you’ve added absolutely nothing to the conversation on the subject. Late paying is certainly deplorable, but beyond that, adjustments to schedule or paying minimum wage isn’t unethical. They don’t want to work for that wage, find another job. Even mom and pop shops will usually pay 6-7k/hour to start.

    • guest

      Dear idiot,

      Most youth of Korea are having hard time finding work BECAUSE THERE IS NO WORK. Even college graduates are having problems finding work. To glibly suggest they go elsewhere for work shows how out of touch you are with the times and ignorance of the situation at hand.

  • JMS

    If you want higher pay get a better job, that is how life works. You don’t get what you think you are worth you get what the company is willing to pay you. As long as there is unemployment and poverty there will be a long line of people willing to take the low pay.

    • guest

      ….spoken like a true 1%

      • JMS

        No actually more like a realist. Now get back to work for your $5 per hour job.

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  • namepen

    Those lot have mucked up my orders more times than soft mick and now they are asking for more money? They can do one.

  • guest

    It’s about time. These workers need to be paid fair living wages not slave wages.

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