Captured image of Hanwha Total homepage

Walkout to continue through March 28

Unionized workers of Hanwha Total went on a general strike on March 23 after the talks between the management and labor over wage hike fell apart. The union plans to continue the walkout through March 28 morning.

Beginning last August, the two sides tried to find a happy medium on pay raise in a total of 11 meetings, but the gap was way too big. The union asked for a 10.3 percent increase while the management counter-offered a mere 2.3 percent.

Workers eventually cut its requests to 8 percent, but the company refused to accept it, claiming that the company’s competitors jacked up the wage on an average of 2 percent last year.

Against this backdrop, the union asked its members whether or not to go on a strike last month, and 86.2 percent voted for the collective action.

Hanwha Total spokespeople say that the firm’s wages are very high as the average is more than $100,000 per head. Unionists counter that the figures are still low compared to the company’s bottom lines _ the firm netted more than $1 billion in net profits for three straight years through 2018.

The strike is not likely to paralyze the firm’s operations because non-unionists will keep working. But if the strife continues, Hanwha is expected to suffer setbacks because out of its 1,700-plus workers, more than 800 joined the trade union.

After Hanwha took over Hanwha Total from Samsung in 2015 along with three other firms, the Seoul-based group faced labor-management conflicts more often than not. The four are Hanwha Aerospace, Hanwha System and Hanwha General Chemical on top of Hanwha Total.

For example, the trade union of Hanwha Aerospace did not change its name from Samsung to Hanwha, possibly to protest the acquisition of the company by Hanwha.

Established in 1952, Hanwha Group is one of the largest conglomerates in Korea as it is engaged in various areas, such as manufacturing, construction, finance, services and leisure over 61 domestic subsidiaries and 258 foreign networks.

However, it cannot match Samsung Group, the country’s largest conglomerate by any measure.