McDonald's Korea accused of owing 50 bil. won in back pay to part-time employees

McDonald's Korea Managing Director Antoni Martinez answers lawmakers' questions at the National Assembly audit held in Yeouido, Seoul, on Oct. 21. Korea times file

By Kim Jae-heun

McDonald's Korea allegedly owes 50 billion won in back pay to its workers.

According to its part-time employee union, "Crew," the Korean branch of the U.S.-owned and managed fast food restaurant chain has been excluding work hours when its 15,000 workers were changing into uniform that amount to 14 billion won in unpaid wages.

Also, McDonald's Korea counted work hours as lower that those stated in original contracts signed by part-time employees. Crew says that the company owes them 36 billion won for those hours.

However, McDonald's Korea Managing Director Antoni Martinez denied the claim, saying instead that employees had agreed to take part in a flexible work program and that their wages had been paid correctly.

"We settled our part-timers' work hours based on the flexible work system and they said they agreed and that they want it," Martinez said at the National Assembly audit held Oct. 21.

However, Crew argued that they hadn't consented to it.

"By the Labor Standards Act, the time used to change into uniforms and prepare for the opening and closing of restaurants should count as work hours. And part-time workers must be paid accordingly," a union official said.

In addition, the union alleged there had been bullying by a manager at one restaurant in Seoul for four years and that some disabled workers at the store had been exploited.

The managing director said that he is confident that McDonald's Korea's employment policy does not discriminate between workers based on sex, age or disability.

"I will see if there can be improvements made in this case," Martinez said.

Crew filed a complaint with the Seoul Regional Employment and Labor Administration, Oct. 20, to request an investigation.

"McDonald's Korea is undermining the legal order despite its presence as a major company, in which it is obligated to comply with social responsibilities and legal norms. We want Managing Director Antoni Martinez to make a public apology," a Crew official said.

Martinez was also questioned about an incident in which McDonald's Korea used expired buns for certain burger products last year. Police are still investigating a possible breach of the Food Sanitation Act.

In August, McDonald's Korea admitted its responsibility in the error and punished the part-time employee who used the expired buns as well as the manager at the particular restaurant involved. However, the restaurant staff argued that the part-time worker had actually been told to use the buns, and that the headquarters should take full responsibility.

The managing director agreed that a part-time employee cannot make decisions alone concerning using expired buns, but did not comment further.

Kim Jae-heun

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