Uniqlo says layoff email not really about canning staff

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Uniqlo says layoff email not really about canning staff

An email cc error has Uniqlo workers fearing the worst, as a misfired missive suggests they may be losing their jobs.

On Blind, an internet site for anonymous employee gripes, someone claiming to work for the clothing chain said that an executive of the parent company had mistakenly sent the offending email to all employees. It was supposed to go just to the head of the human resources department.

In the message, Bae Woo-jin, chief executive officer of FRL Korea, is quoted as saying that the “chairman” is very interested in undertaking “human resource restructuring.”

The chairman mentioned in the email could be Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin or Fast Retailing Chairman Tadashi Yanai. Fast Retailing owns Uniqlo, and Lotte owns 49 percent of FRL, operator of Uniqlo stores in Korea.

In the email, Bae was also reported to have written that “the chairman raised a question” on why the number of regular workers at the headquarters had increased to 42.

The post on Blind is not visible to the public, only to invited guests.

A public relations company representing FRL acknowledges the email but insists that the contents of the message have been inaccurately reported. It also said that Bae’s sentiments do not represent company policy.

FRL Korea “is not proceeding with layoffs for now,” said Um Ye-sle, a deputy department head at The Signature, a Seoul-based public relations firm. The email was part of a “discussion to improve the competitiveness and efficiency of company operations.”

“The contents were focused on improving the company’s competitiveness, not layoffs,” she added.

FRL Korea declined to disclose the original email.

FRL Korea reported 974.9 billion won ($870 million) of sales in 2019, down from 1.42 trillion won the previous year. It was the first time in five years FRL Korea reported sales below 1 trillion won.

Uniqlo last year was shunned by Korean consumers due to economic and diplomatic tensions between Korea and Japan. The company’s problems were exacerbated when Fast Retailing Chief Financial Officer Takeshi Okazaki said the impact of the boycott would be short-lived.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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