Korean cosmetic retail workers press for a higher wage and fairer sales incentive system
The L'Oréal Korea Union and Chanel Korea Union, both members of UNI affiliate KFSU, are rejecting their employers’ unreasonable overtime work requirements and are demanding compensation for work done to support online sales during the pandemic.
Declining foot traffic and in-store sales during the pandemic has driven the two major cosmetic brands to intensify their online sales efforts. However, expectations for workers do not reflect this reality. For example, the cosmetic workers are still expected to maintain high in-store sales targets but not adequately rewarded for their support of online sales.
This means that workers are earning significantly less than their pre-pandemic average due a drop in sales commissions. At the same time, they are expected to handle customer issues arising from online sales, including product support and complaints, but their pay does not reflect this extra work.
Another key problem the workers faced was the arbitrary and irregular changes to their work schedules.
Sister Ha In-Joo, L'Oréal Korea Union president, explains, "The department store decides the date at the end of the month on which day the store would be closed. Workers would make their off-duty schedule based on these days. However, the store management sometimes changes these days without prior notice and thus disrupt workers' schedule and plans."
Sister Kim So-Hyeon, Chanel Korea Union president, added, "The stores also frequently extend opening hours on very short notice. The brands must comply with the stores' decisions, and workers have to work longer hours. The company (brand) does not even try to seek consent from workers or send an official letter to the union requesting for cooperation."
The KFSU surveyed 447 workers and found that one-third work long hours due to frequent night-time work.
The unions anticipate that online sales will continue to grow, but the current wage and incentive system is failing to keep up, which will pose a significant challenge for workers.
“The pandemic has changed so much about how we work, and workers’ compensation should reflect this. That is why we call on L'Oréal and Chanel to recognize their employees’ hard work with fair pay and scheduling,” said Rajendra Acharya, Regional Secretary of UNI Asia & Pacific.
Editor's note: The unions provided updated information that the L'Oreal Korea Union reached a tentative agreement with the company which will pay W500,000 for workers to compensate for their support of online sales, and a 3.5% wage increase in 2021. The two parties will discuss further about the online work compensation in the 2022 CBA negotiation. The Chanel Korea Union participated in a hearing at the National Assembly and revealed that the company may be intending to barter the wage issue with the unresolved sexual harassment case. The union will meet an official of the Ministry of Employment and Labor to discuss a prospective investigation on this matter.