Mart workers in Daegu protest day off shift to Mondays

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Mart workers in Daegu protest day off shift to Mondays

Customes shop at an Emart on Monday in Seoul. [YONHAP]

Customes shop at an Emart on Monday in Seoul. [YONHAP]

 
Employees at major retailers are taking Daegu mayor and former presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo to court for forcing them to take a day off on Mondays instead of Sundays.  
 
Starting February, major discount stores in Daegu such as Emart and Lotte Mart will be closing on the second and fourth Monday of the month instead of on Sundays, as they currently do.  
 
If this comes to pass, it would be the first for the city to force shops to close on a weekday instead of Sunday since the mandatory day-off regulation was implemented in 2012.  
 
On Monday, the Korean Mart Labor Union filed a lawsuit against the Daegu mayor as well as 10 district office heads, accusing them of coercion, abuse of power and business obstruction.  
 
“Laborers who work at discount marts only get two Sundays off a month,” the labor union argued through a statement released on Monday. “It is the minimum means to protect the rights of the workers to live life as human beings with families and friends and a guarantee of the right to take a break from harsh weekend labor.”  
 
The labor union argued that shifting the day that workers could take a break collectively from Sundays to Mondays actually neutralizes the regulation of a mandatory day off.
 
“Mayor Hong and the district office heads are leading the Yoon Suk Yeol government, which is only trying to fatten the retail conglomerates that are eating the flesh and bones of the mart workers,” the union stated.  
 
Currently there are around 51 places across the country that have shifted the mandatory day off from Sundays.  
 
Some 14 cities and counties in Gyeonggi are taking the day off on a weekday, while in Ulsan, three districts are closing every second Wednesday and fourth Sunday of the month.  
 
In Jeju, major discount marts are required to close every second Friday and every fourth Saturday.  
 
Under the Distribution Industry Development Act, all major discount stores have to close for their workers every second and fourth Sunday since 2012.
 
The purpose of the act is not only to give workers at major retailers a rest, but also to redirect consumers to local smaller supermarkets and mom-and-pop stores at traditional markets.  
 
The only exception is when there is an agreement among the interested parties to shift the days off.  
 
However, the Korean Mart Labor Union argued that in the case of Daegu, although the city government and the local district offices agreed to the day change with parties such as the Korea Merchant Association, Korea Supermarkets Alliance and Korea Chain Stores Association, it made no such agreement with the union.
 
“It excluded the major marts' laborers as well as the merchant groups that are most affected,” the union claimed.  
 
The controversy over banning major discount marts from operating on Sundays have been ongoing for a decade, especially on whether the regulation even benefits traditional markets, the stated purpose of the law, as more consumers are now shopping online.  
 
President Yoon even raised the issue during his presidential campaign.
 
However, in December, the government opted to ease the regulation to allow online delivery by large retailers even on its mandatory days off instead of lifting the mandatory Sunday days off.  
 

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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