E-Land pledges reform of its corporate culture

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E-Land pledges reform of its corporate culture

Retail conglomerate E-Land Group, which has been embroiled in controversy over back wages owed to its part-timers, released a set of pledges Monday aimed at bolstering the company’s corporate culture.

The effort follows in the footsteps of other Korean conglomerates that have promised changes to their work environment and “quality jobs” in response to President Moon Jae-in’s employment policy drive.

E-Land said in a statement that its reform plan was “a demonstration of the group’s volition to create quality jobs that ensure a positive work environment and more opportunities for the younger generation.” The company said its policies will apply not only to employees working for E-Land subsidiaries but also subcontractors.

The conglomerate has outlined seven major tasks. Among them are establishing an independent supervisory body that will ensure employees enjoy a stable work-life balance, prohibiting work-related communication outside business hours and guaranteeing two weeks of paid leave for fathers of newborns. Before, they were only offered a five-day leave, with just three days paid.

E-Land this summer also plans to revive a two-week leave program that allows employees to take 14 consecutive days off any time during the year. The program was scrapped last year while the group was staving off a liquidity crunch.

“The tasks ultimately aim toward two goals,” a company spokesman said, “to reduce excessive work hours through a supervising body and help employees enjoy a balance between work and family. We’re looking forward to the corporate culture reform marking a new start for the company in creating better-quality jobs.”

Other Korean conglomerates have released similar pledges, but E-Land stands out because of the criticism it has faced in the past for mistreating its workers.

Last year, its restaurant subsidiary, E-Land Park, was found to have withheld nearly 8.4 billion won ($7.5 million) in overtime pay from 44,360 part-time workers. The incident seriously tainted the group’s image and even prompted a boycott against the conglomerate, whose main businesses include food and fashion.

E-Land’s handling of the situation has not been perfect. Earlier this year, the company, short on cash, was caught delaying payments to full-time employees in order to cover the part-timers’ back wages. The company has since been trying to make amends by apologizing and announcing concrete plans to improve its financial status and corporate structure.

President Moon has made labor reform a major task of his presidency. He has vowed not just to increase the number of jobs but also improve their quality by reducing the number of unstable temporary positions and excessive amount of work hours that have been characteristic of Korea’s employment landscape.

Conglomerates have jumped on board. LG Electronics has promised to overhaul its hierarchical workplace structure, transitioning from five ranks to three starting in July. Multiple layers of seniority have frequently been criticized as overly rigid and an obstacle to innovative ideas.

CJ Group has vowed to extend paid paternity leave to two weeks from five days and allow one-month leave for parents whose children enter elementary school.

SK Telecom implemented a similar policy last week for parents of newly enrolled primary school children with a longer leave of 90 days. In March, the mobile carrier had also increased the number of enrollees for the company’s day care program to 120 from 70.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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