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Pulmuone mulls suing striking truckers

The feud between management and truck drivers at Pulmuone, South Korea’s mid-weight food maker, has worsened over the Chuseok holiday as the four-week strike has turned into a legal battle.

According to Pulmuone, the company is seeking damage compensation from about 40 truckers who have allegedly inflicted about 1 billion won ($835,000) worth of damage in the course of protests in front of the company’s logistics center in Eumseong, North Chungcheong Province, since Sept. 4. The company also claims that the class action has brought about 30 percent of cargo logistics to a halt just before the busiest Chuseok holiday season.

The protestors are working under contract with Daewon and Seoul Garam Logistics, which are subcontractors of Exo Fresh, a Pulmuone affiliate. The drivers are members of the Korea Confederation of Trade Union’s cargo workers’ unit and own their vehicles and drive them as individual contractors.

The unionists have been urging Pulmuone to allow them to attach their union stickers to their trucks as a sign of unity, while the trucks are already covered with Pulmuone’s company identity design. Under the contract, any alteration of the truck exterior is prohibited. Pulmuone refuted the notion that the drivers will have to remove the company identity design if protestors chose the union banner.

“Losing the CI means tens of millions of won lost in premiums when drivers sell their cars and the logistics rights,” an industry insider was quoted as saying.

As the rift became intense, Pulmuone shut its promotional kiosk inside the ISOFAR Goesan International Organic EXPO 2015, and said it will seek legal compensation for the damage.

The unionists have filed complaints with prosecutors that police forces have suppressed drivers by apprehending three protestors. One of the drivers was rushed to the hospital after conducting a demonstration under his vehicle for more than eight days.

The drivers claim that they have been coerced to sign the exterior design contract in fear that they may lose the whole deal. They also alleged that they haven’t had their fees raised for the past 20 years.

Pulmuone posted 893.7 billion won in sales in the first half of the year, a 14.3 percent jump from the first half of 2014. However, its operating profit slid by 35.1 percent during the same period, showing ill profitability. The company has been struggling against poor overseas operations, including 17.3 billion won in losses in the U.S. and going 7.8 billion won in the red in Japan.

By Bae Ji-sook(baejisook@heraldcorp.com)  











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