1138 GMT November 29, 2021
“A strike is not our end goal. But the company’s proposal for a pay raise is too little for us to accept,” said a union leader on Thursday, when the strike went into effect.
The walkout, which disrupted some domestic and international flights, followed nearly a year of pay raise negotiations with the airline.
The union, which covers nearly two-thirds of Korean Air’s 2,700 pilots, had been threatening to call a strike since last February, demanding a wage increase of 29 percent, far more than the mere 1.9 percent offered by the carrier.
A Korean Air spokesman described the pilots’ wage demands as “unacceptable,” saying that the wage gap with other company employees is already wide.
The airline further announced that disruptions as a result of the strike would not be much and that over 90 percent of the flights scheduled for the next 10 days would continue as planned.
The company also said it was “planning to fly substitute planes if any significant disruptions are expected on the affected routes.”
A total work stoppage by pilots is not allowed under South Korean law.
The country’s Transport Ministry said it anticipated the strike to only cause the cancelation of up to 150 passenger and cargo flights on the airline’s domestic and international routes over the next 10 days, including to its major Asian destinations such as Hong Kong, Dubai, and Tokyo.
The strike is Korean Air’s first labor action since 2005, when a four-day pilot strike led to a loss of 67 billion won (56 million dollars) from canceled flights and other service disruptions.
That strike prompted intervention by the government, which ordered the pilots back to work over worries about a weakening economy as well as passenger inconvenience.