KB union decries interference in picking director

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KB union decries interference in picking director

With general elections scheduled for April, labor unions in the banking industry are growing evermore vocal in their calls for change and making management nervous about the potential damage being done to their institutions’ reputations.

KB Kookmin Bank’s labor union reported 57 officials, including the bank’s vice president, to the Yeongdeungpo District police on Wednesday for preventing them from exercising their right as a shareholder to propose a candidate as an outside director.

The union also made a similar report to the National Human Rights committee yesterday morning. This is the first time that unionized workers in the banking sector have proposed selecting an outside director.

The union claimed that since KB Financial Group was launched in 2008, management has prevented it from doing so through political pressure and by having officials “parachuted” in from on high.

As such, the union said the system for choosing external directors has failed to serve its purpose of overseeing management and exercising a check and balance on the power of top executives. The union is the fourth-largest shareholder in KB Financial Group with a stake of 0.91 percent.

It has proposed for the post Kim Min, a lawyer at the civic group Lawyers for a Democratic Society. Three out of the group’s five outside directors will see their terms expire next month.

“We have prepared a proposal for who we think who should step into the post, and we will deliver this at the group’s shareholders meeting that is scheduled for March,” the union said in a press release. “We are calling for someone who is independent of management.”

The union claimed it was recently pressured to withdraw its proposal, as well as any mention of it on social networking tools like Kakao Talk, in e-mail, text messages and phone calls.

They also claimed that after 13,174 employees took part in a meeting earlier this month - indicating strong support for the union’s call - management met with employees and warned that they would be discriminated against if they join the union’s movement.

Meanwhile, employees of Korea Exchange Bank continue to protest Hana Financial Group’s acquisition of it. KEB’s unionized workers have been demanding that Hana, which ranks as the new owner of KEB with a controlling stake of 57.27 percent, guarantee the bank’s independent management as well as their job security.

Hana Financial Group Chairman Kim Seung-yu promised earlier that, for the time being at least, Hana and KEB will maintain a two-bank system under one roof with independent management. It also vowed to avoid any immediate corporate restructuring.

By Lee Ho-jeong [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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