Overpaid Bank Workers Have No Right to Strike Now

      September 15, 2022 12:58

      The Korea Financial Industry Union, which represents bank workers, plans to go on strike on Friday demanding a 6.1-percent wage hike, a 36-hour cap on the working week and extended retirement age. The entire country is reeling from rising interest rates and runaway inflation, but bank workers, who are the prime beneficiaries of this trend, insist on working less for even more money.

      Banks have been closing an hour early since July 2021 to take part in the government's coronavirus lockdown. Lockdown ended in April this year, but bank workers are have gotten used to their light load and still want a hefty wage hike. The average annual wage of a bank worker in Korea is W105.5 million, which is the highest of all industries here, but that is apparently not enough (US$1=W1,391).

      In spite of their low level of competitiveness, bank workers in Korea are paid more than their peers in the U.S. and U.K. compared to per-capita GDP thanks to a seniority-based wage system. In other words, they are not paid for hard work and should be thanking their lucky stars for what they have. Korea's four major commercial banks earned W15 trillion from interest alone in the first half of this year, while households with W1.8 quadrillion worth of debt are reeling under soaring interest rates. Government-supported applications by low-income earners to switch to lower-interest loans start Thursday, but bank workers want to walk off their jobs. How can that be justified?

      Banks owe a lot to the Korean public, who bailed them out during the 1998 Asian financial crisis, sometimes with gold from their own wedding rings. There must come a time for bankers to repay that debt, and that time is now. Strikes are for underpaid workers if they are pushed to the edge, but bankers just want to protect their gravy train. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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