Coupang deliverymen file petitionA group of 75 former and current deliverymen at Coupang, one of Korea’s largest online shopping companies, filed a petition with the Blue House on Tuesday accusing the company of mistreating its workers and terminating contracts with no clear reasons.
Coupang has strongly denied the claims, saying the group’s assertions have no grounds.
According to the petition, 218 Coupang workers, accounting for 10 percent of the company’s deliverymen, have left the company in the past two months. The average period of their contracts was 10 months.
“Coupang used indirect ways to push contract workers out of their jobs,” said Kang Byung-joon, one of the petitioners. “The headquarters retrieved black boxes attached to delivery cars, imposed penalties on those found to have spoken badly about the company and refused to extend contracts because of traffic violations.”
The petitioners added that the number of deliverymen hired by the company in 2016 was around 3,600, while the current number is much smaller at 2,237, suggesting that around 1,400 have been laid off in the year’s first half.
The drainage has led to increased workload for the remaining workers, the group said. In the past three years, their daily delivery load has gone from 130 to 220, they said.
Coupang fired back on Tuesday, saying the source for the figures was unknown and the assertions ungrounded. It explained that workers whose contracts were not extended did not meet a set of criteria and that no one was wrongfully forced out.
The contracts of Coupang deliverymen are renewed every six months based on a certain set of criteria during the first two years on the job. Those who work more than a year can undergo evaluation for permanent employment.
A company spokesman said the average transition rate of workers from contract to permanent is between 60 and 70 percent, excluding those who intentionally apply for short-term employment. Those who fail to renew their contract after their second year usually leave, but Coupang said most people who have worked that long are hired as permanent employees.
Coupang made its name by internally managing its logistics rather than outsourcing it to external subcontractors. This meant hiring its own fleet of deliverymen.
In 2014, when the service was launched, the Coupang deliverymen were promised annual wages of 40 million won ($35,550), much higher than the average salary of a college graduate in Korea, and a high transition rate from contract to permanent employment.
The deliverymen and the company’s “Rocket Delivery” service, which sends certain items within 24 hours, were core drivers of the company’s growth and brand image among the public, helping it rank first among e-commerce operators by market share.
However, managing its own delivery force has come with costs, both operational and in terms of PR. Earlier this month, Coupang had to fight back rumors that the company was reducing its employees’ wages without prior discussion.
And while the company’s revenue last year was 1.9 trillion won ($1.69 billion), a 73 percent increase from the previous year, its operating costs have surpassed 500 billion won for the past two years.
BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [email@example.com]