Protest leaders in South Korea vowed Monday to continue fighting McDonald’s so-called “culture of exploitation” of part-time workers at its local chains. The protest, which began over the weekend, stormed several McDonald’s branches in Seoul, as demonstrators clamored for the fast-food giant to increase the pay of its workers and correct unfair working conditions.
"If the company doesn't respond to our demands, we will continue to raise our voice on the streets," Lee Hae-jung, secretary general of the Arbeit Workers Union (AWU), told the Korea Times. "After our protest on Friday, we are waiting for a response from McDonald's. Another protest will be held."
Protesters marched from the Sogang University in Sinchon, Seoul, a region known for its nightlife and universities, and occupied McDonald’s restaurants, waving placards that stated “We are human too” and “McDonald’s, the best place to exploit part-time workers,” according to the Korea Times. "We have received many favorable reactions since then, especially from those who work at other fast-food restaurants," Lee said. "Many showed empathy when we said it is unfair that most of employees at one of the world's biggest companies eke out a living on minimum wage."
McDonald’s part-time workers in Korea earn a minimum hourly wage of 5,580 won ($5.10) per hour, according to the Korea Observer, and the protesters are demanding a pay of 10,000 won ($9.11) per hour. The protesters have also said that McDonald’s in Korea fills every restaurant position with temporary workers to cut costs, including administrative ones. Other complaints include the company arbitrarily adjusting schedules, sometimes on a day-to-day basis, to keep workers under the 60-hour per month limit for part-time workers. "The managerial-level positions are the only workers that are officially employed, who make us even more uncomfortable when working," the union said in a statement.
McDonald’s has responded to the protest, saying that it did not break any laws in its hiring and management policies. "What the union is saying is a complete distortion. McDonald's clearly abides by the labor law," the company said, according to the Korea Times.
The AWU began noticing complaints against McDonald’s last November, when 21-year-old part-time worker Lee Ga-hyun was allegedly fired for being a union member and for reporting arbitrary adjustments to her schedule. The union had said that 65 percent of McDonald’s workers experience arbitrary schedule adjustments and 22 percent have reported paycheck delays. “If any McDonald’s manager behaves in an abusive manner, we are asking workers to report it to us,” said AWU Secretary-General Lee Hae-jung to the Korea Observer. “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.”
A video of the protests can be watched below.