Novo Nordisk union protests breakdown of wage and incentive talks in South Korea: report

Earlier this year, GSK warded off a potential strike by hundreds of unionized employees in the U.K. Now, Novo Nordisk is going on the defense over a similar pay dispute, according to a local report. 

About 100 unionized Novo Nordisk Korea employees assembled outside the drugmaker’s south Seoul headquarters Thursday to protest a breakdown in talks over wages and cuts in employee incentives, Korea Biomedical Review first reported.

The union, which boasts 118 members excluding those on leave of absence, has been picketing since mid-June after wage negotiations imploded, Korea Biomed said. Union officials also contend that Novo management unilaterally altered its sales representative incentive system and refused to cover managers’ fuel costs, the Korean publication added.

Novo Nordisk did not immediately reply to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

Meanwhile, KoreaBiomed notes the unionists have lodged an official complaint with Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor.

Union leader Huh Nam-jin told the publication that the company and the union settled on a 4.5% wage increase for 2022 last year. Problem is, management “recently changed its proposal and proposed a 1.5 percent increase instead," Huh told KoreaBiomed.

In an attempt to reach a middle ground, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) floated a 2.5% increase instead, but Novo’s Korean employees “cannot accept it because the union had set the wage increase rate every year until now,” Huh explained.

If Novo fails to accept the union’s wage, incentive and fuel cost demands, the union will step up its industrial action, Huh warned.

Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time employees have butted heads with Big Pharma in 2022. GSK in May successfully dodged a potential strike by hundreds of engineers, technicians laboratory analysts, warehouse workers and others represented by Britain and Ireland’s biggest labor union, Unite, after the British drugmaker floated an improved pay offer.

Similarly, unionized Sanofi workers in South Korea threatened to strike last month after efforts to agree on a new wage plan with local management fell through. At odds over the size of a potential pay increase, the union and Sanofi reportedly held eight rounds of negotiations and entered a mediation process. As the mediation has fallen through, the union has secured enough support to go on strike in July if the two parties still can’t reach a deal, Korea Biomed said last month.

It isn't immediately clear where those talks stand.