SEOUL, April 6 (Korea Bizwire) – Korean Air Lines Co. has dismissed a pilot for allegedly refusing to fly, though he claims he was following the company’s daily working regulations, its labor union said Wednesday, a move feared to deepen a rift caused by prolonged labor disputes at the country’s leading flag carrier.
The pilot, who is identified only by his last name Park, was notified of the decision by the company’s disciplinary committee on Tuesday, according to the labor union that represents Korean Air’s pilots.
The pilot has been under the disciplinary committee review since he allegedly refused to fly an airplane back to Seoul from Manila in mid-February after a delayed arrival. He said that it would run against the company’s working regulations that prevent more than 12 hours of non-stop work within 24 hours.
The company accused the pilot of refusing to fly by “arbitrarily” interpreting the regulations, which created an administrative hassle and potentially threatened the safety of passengers. It claims that an extra 2-hour flight is possible under some “abnormal” circumstances.
Park has claimed that he did not intentionally refuse to work, adding that he arranged for his own replacement to avoid any service disruptions. He reportedly plans to appeal the dismissal decision.’
This is the latest in a series of clashes between labor and management at Korean Air, which has been mired in protracted labor disputes since they failed to iron out differences on wage and working conditions.
Both sides have been at odds over by how much the salary of pilots should be increased, as pilots are currently demanding a 37-percent hike. The company proposed a 1.9-percent increase, which it said is on par with the wage growth rate for other non-pilot workers.
Apparently adding fuel to the antipathy towards each other, Korean Air recently reprimanded or suspended 20 pilots for carrying a sticker on their bags that the company saw as disparaging its reputation with groundless rumors.
Labor disputes at Korean Air received unwanted public attention recently when Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho posted a comment on a social networking service last month, ridiculing the pilots’ claim that they are faced with tight flight schedules and other harsh working conditions. Hanjin Group holds the airline company under its wing.