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[Newsmaker] Incheon Airport’s permanent job offers to staff face backlash

Over 1,900 non-regular workers to win coveted full-time employment, which critics label reverse discrimination

Incheon International Airport Corp. employees protest Monday against CEO Koo Bon-hwan, as the company plans to offer permanent positions to over 1,900 contract or part-time workers. The move has been criticized by many as reverse discrimination. (Yonhap)
Incheon International Airport Corp. employees protest Monday against CEO Koo Bon-hwan, as the company plans to offer permanent positions to over 1,900 contract or part-time workers. The move has been criticized by many as reverse discrimination. (Yonhap)
Incheon International Airport Corp., favored by college graduates for its job security and benefits, is facing backlash for a plan to offer permanent positions to over 1,900 contract or part-time workers.

Existing full-time employees and those who have been crafting their resumes for the coveted jobs are crying foul, saying it is reverse discrimination.

A public petition, posted on the website of the presidential office, had garnered close to 82,000 signatures as of 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, just hours after it was filed.

“Job seekers and current (regular) workers have studied and improved their resumes to apply to this company. Is it truly equal to just to take away opportunities from those who have been working hard to earn them?” the petition reads.

It claims that the company is notoriously hard to get into, with successful applicants to office positions typically having near-perfect scores on English proficiency tests. The firm has been voted the most favored among government-owned enterprises by fresh college graduates for the past three years, according to job portal Incruit. 

Incheon Airport, apparently aiming to be a model case of the Moon Jae-in administration’s “zero non-regular worker initiative,” announced Monday its plan to change the employment status of nearly 10,000 contract, part-time and dispatched workers who typically work for lower wages and with less job security.

Of the total, some 1,902 security inspectors will be hired directly by the airport operator, while the remaining 7,642 workers join its three affiliate companies as full-time employees. 

The company says similar moves were taken by the Korea Water Resources Corp. and the Government Buildings Management Service in the administrative city of Sejong to directly hire their security guards.

There were several state-controlled companies under the Moon administration that offered job security to their non-regular staff, but Incheon Airport’s move sparked sharp criticism for its sheer size of permanent positions to be added to the firm, whose financial soundness is seriously threatened by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, the company has around 1,400 full-time employees on its payroll. The airport is widely expected to report losses this year for the first time since 2003.

In a bid to stop the job status change, the labor union of existing airport workers plans to file a petition with the Constitutional Court, claiming a violation of the equal rights. It argues the non-regular workers should go through an open recruitment process, just like they did.

“The company will face fierce opposition from all union members if it pushes for the full-time transition,” the labor union said in a statement, adding that the company’s plan will result in a tremendous amount of taxpayers’ money to be wasted.”

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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