SPC Group Chairman Indicted for Alleged Union-Busting in South Korea

SPC Group chairman indicted for coercing 570 union members to quit, highlighting tensions between businesses and labor unions in South Korea.

author-image
Ayesha Mumtaz
Updated On
New Update
SPC Group Chairman Indicted for Alleged Union-Busting in South Korea

SPC Group Chairman Indicted for Alleged Union-Busting in South Korea

Hur Young-in, the chairman of the SPC Group, and 17 other people were accused by Seoul prosecutors on April 21, 2024, of forcing 570 union members to resign from membership in the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions at an SPC subsidiary. The bakery tycoon Hur Young-in was taken into custody at a hospital in Seoul as a result of the union-busting investigation. Hur and the others were charged by the authorities with utilising a variety of coercive measures, like as threats and intimidation, to coerce the union members into quitting the militant labour group.

The prosecution alleged that Chairman Hur led the effort to encourage the withdrawal from the union, with SPC CEO Hwang Jae-bok frequently reporting to him on the number of union members who withdrew. It was also revealed that the company provided union members' personal information to the union president of the more friendly Federation of Korean Trade Unions, creating a 'labor-union conflict'. In total, 16 people, including Chairman Hur and CEO Hwang, were brought to trial, while 24 others were not indicted, with some receiving deferred prosecution.

According to the prosecution, the SPC established a target number of union resignations for each business division and received reports each month, with bonuses paid when the target was achieved. Some company executives also stated that middle managers were paid bonuses for successful union withdrawals. Ultimately, 560 of the 570 members of the Korean Trade Union Confederation left the union during the withdrawal process, which took place over a year and a half starting from February 2021. The prosecution also found that the SPC intervened in the union's operation by providing the management-friendly Federation of Korean Trade Unions with a draft statement reflecting management's position and having it announced.

Why this matters: This case highlights the ongoing tensions between businesses and labor unions in South Korea. The indictment of a high-profile business leader for alleged union-busting tactics emphasizes the challenges faced by workers seeking to organize and protect their rights in the face of corporate opposition.

The SPC Group, known for its bakery and confectionery brands, has faced scrutiny over its labor practices. The indictment of Chairman Hur Young-in and other executives marks a significant development in the government's efforts to address unfair labor practices and protect workers' rights to unionize. As the case proceeds to trial, it is expected to shed further light on the alleged tactics used by the company to undermine union membership and the broader implications for labor-management relations in South Korea.

Key Takeaways

  • SPC Group chairman and 17 others indicted for coercing 570 union members to quit.
  • SPC provided union members' info to rival union, creating labor conflict.
  • SPC set targets for union resignations, paid bonuses to managers for successful withdrawals.
  • 560 of 570 union members left the militant union over 1.5 years.
  • Case highlights tensions between businesses and unions, government's efforts to address unfair labor practices.