CHANGWON, Sept. 8 (Korea Bizwire) – Excessive working hours, no overtime pay, lunch breaks lasting less than 30 minutes and other exhausting aspects of the working conditions of mail carriers have recently come into the spotlight.
Speaking with 138 mail carriers employed at 13 post offices throughout the Busan Metropolitan Area and South Gyeongsang Province, regional organization “The Machang Geoje Union for the Eradication of Industrial Accidents” found that mail carriers worked an average 57.1 hours per week.
Working hours increased to 64.9 per week during busy periods, and climbed further during the holiday season to 72.1 per week.
The total adds up to 2,977 hours a year, a figure comparable to hours worked in Western nations in the heyday of industrialization at the beginning of the 1900s.
Corroborating the Machang Geoje Union’s findings was a published report titled “Nationwide Report on Mail Carriers Overtime Labor” by the People’s Solidarity for Social Progress group, which stated mail carriers worked 55.9 hours per week and 2,888.5 hours per year.
Whichever report one references, the reality is that mail carriers work nearly 1,000 more hours than the national average, set at 2,069 hours in the OECD’s employment trends report “2017 Employment Outlook”.
To add insult to injury, mail carriers worked an average of 16.4 overtime hours per week, but only 23.1 percent reported having received overtime compensation.
In addition, the average lunch break lasted a mere 27.6 minutes and got shorter during the holiday season. Mail carriers also took an average 18.4 minutes of rest and again, less through the holidays.
The tough working conditions have placed severe pressure on the mail carriers, with cases of suicide and depression on the rise.
In May, an employee at a post office in Seoul committed suicide, leaving a note that said, “I’m afraid. They ordered me to report to work despite me being unwell. They don’t treat me like I’m a human being. To my family, I’m sorry.”
According to Korea Post, including the suicide, 11 mail carriers had so far lost their lives this year.
With stories of maltreatment of mail carriers at the hands of their superiors also spreading, calls for improving the working standards by placing less emphasis on the economics of the postal service have grown stronger.
In response, a spokesperson for the Korea Post Busan Division stated that its hands were tied, claiming that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance had final say over increasing personnel and budgetary matters.
The spokesperson added that the postal service was constantly operating at a loss and that raising prices was not feasible due to the nature of it being a public service.