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Categorized Employees into 5 Levels: Weed out A, Closely Observe B and C
By Lee Yeong-gyeong
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It appears Shinsegae E-mart has been specially managing its employees by identifying employee trends and drawing up a unique list since 2005. The list included photos of employees and English initials: MJ (problematic, munjae), KS (requires attention, gwansim or kwansim), KJ (family/pro-company, gajok or kajok), etc.

On January 20, The Kyunghyang Shinmun obtained documents from Democratic United Party lawmakers Jang Hana and Noh Woong-rae. Among these documents was a May 2005 report from the E-mart Yangjae store, which revealed the names of ten KS staff.

The report also included the employees' family relations and living arrangements along with the reason why these employees were classified as KS. E-mart's management of its human resources is the same as Korea East-West Power, which divided its employees according to their attitudes toward the trade union in 2011: tomatoes (pro-union), apples (neutral), and pears (pro-management).

A citizen passes by an E-mart store in Seoul on January 20. The Ministry of Employment and Labor initiated a special labor inspection on E-mart for allegations that the company carried out illegal investigations into its employees to prevent the establishment of a trade union. Kim Jeong-geun

Shinsegae carried out a broad range of interviews with MJ and KS employees, whom they had previously kept an eye on, prior to the approval of multiple unions in July 2011. They designed a plan to manage their staff according to their relationship with and inclination to the union by categorizing them into A, B, C, D, and S.

According to Shinsegae's document titled "Reference Manual on Multiple Unions," the company provided a manual for managing MJ/KS employees. They also provided the criteria for determining MJ/KS employees, which included private elements such as a tendency to complain and family or financial issues as well as poor performance such as missing out on promotions and low scores in evaluation.

MJ and KS were further divided into A, B, C, D, and S according to their preference for and relationship with the trade union, and the company virtually designed a plan to weed out those classified as A: "Design measures to expel hopeless A-level employees." The document stated, "In the case of B and C-level employees, actively consider ways to take advantage of them as channels of information to obtain any signs of NJ (trade union, nojo) problems."

Shinsegae also prepared a strategy to systematically respond to the union, a union response organization consisting of four teams: emergency team, support team, response team, and evidence collection team.

The company carried out interviews with MJ and KS employees and divided them into key leaders, members, expected members, and potential members, and prepared disciplinary measures for key leaders.

They thoroughly carried out the interviews making use of recorders and security cameras. A document titled, "Duties and Roles of Interviewers in Response to NJ," suggested installing security cameras and ordered the interviewers never to use union-related words including the company's policy of no trade unions. On the results of the interviews, the document stated that the interviewer should divide union personnel into A, B, and C and progress to weed out those who were certain to be expelled.

E-mart, in fact, carried out the interviews of its employees according to this plan. According to a document from their Humax store, they reported the interview results of employees who responded positively to the union and stated, "does not know much about the union, but thinks it is a good organization," and "thinks joining the union is possible if many improvements follow the establishment of the union."

In a report of the interview results at the Gumi store, a manager wrote, "I am sorry to the store and to headquarters as a middle manager because of the simultaneous occurrence of the NJ accident." Shinsegae also had plans to take advantage of government agencies to respond to the trade union. Their document stated, "unofficially obtain NJ regulations (government officials)" and "secure government officials for legal action/bans." In fact, E-mart obtained labor-related information by constantly maintaining relations with officials from the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

The company also told its managers not to respond to collective bargaining demands, a legitimate right of the union, after a union was established. They prepared a scenario to delay collective bargaining and provided guidelines suggesting they postpone the bargaining on the grounds of legal issues or reasonable business issues such as an extraordinary shareholder's meeting, overseas business trips, and strategy meetings.

In June 2011, when the services union of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions demanded collective bargaining with Shinsegae Department Store, the management followed their guideline and sent a notice stating they could not respond due to "business issues" and demanded a verification of legal qualifications since they could not determine the union as a legal union.

Kwon Young-kook, a lawyer with Lawyers for a Democratic Society, said, "Shinsegae's behavior classifies as unfair labor practice because they are actions trying to dominate and intervene in order to disrupt the formation of a union."

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