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Shinsegae Group’s anti-protest policy in breach of constitution: lawmaker

(Shinsegae Department Store)
(Shinsegae Department Store)
Retail giant Shinsegae Group is in breach of the constitution over its workplace policy that prohibits employees from partaking in political activities, lawmaker Song OK-joo’s office said on Tuesday.

Supermarket chain Emart has a workplace policy banning staff from distributing handouts or putting up banners and posters as well as staging a protest without permission from the company, a review of the company’s internal rules found.

Rep. Song’s office found that a similar workplace policy as Emart’s is in place at dozens of subsidiaries owned by the conglomerate including Shinsegae Food, Starbucks Korea and its shopping mall chain Starfield.

Participating in political activities is also banned across all subsidiaries.

Shinsegae Inc., for instance, states in the 16th clause of Article 47 of its employment rules “not to take part in political activism without permission from the company.”

Song’s office said a “significant part” of Shinsegae group’s employment rules appear to be in conflict with the country’s related act and statues.

It also said the Ministry of Employment and Labor is responsible for ordering change if employment rules clash with the relevant law and subordinate statues and collective agreement.

“Shinsegae Group’s management strategy team revised many of its employment rules in order to prevent collective actions before a measure was introduced to allow multiple labor unions at a single workplace in 2011,” the office said in a press release.

The review also found nearly 7 in 10 subsidiaries of the group have a policy that allows them to inspect the belongings of workers, while nearly 9 in 10 subsidiaries have clauses that could restrict the freedom to move.

One clause in Starbucks Korea’s employment rules states that employees must tell the company without delay when they have relocated, the lawmaker’s office said.

Earlier this month, baristas and other employees of Starbucks Korea hired two trucks emblazoned with slogans in protest of the coffee chain over giving employees an excessive workload

“Starbucks Partners are not expendable. Partners, who have raised their voices for the first time in 22 years, shall not be silenced,” read the messages on both trucks, which drove past the chain’s flagship locations in Seoul.

Days later, the South Korean unit of the coffeehouse chain decided to postpone its annual marketing event this year.

“In light of concerns brought forward, we are postponing our e-frequency winter promotion until October 28,” the company said in a statement.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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