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H-Line Shipping seafarers threaten strike

Seafarers from South Korean LNG and dry bulk shipping company, H-Line Shipping, are demanding better salaries and benefits.

H-Line Shipping comprising the long-term LNG and dry bulk shipping portfolios of the now-defunct Hanjin Shipping, was bought out by private equity investor Hahn & Company in 2014, two years before Hanjin Shipping collapsed.

On 11 July, the seafarers, supported by the Federation of Korean Seafarers’ Union, held a gathering outside Hahn & Company’s headquarters in Seoul. The issue of contention is H-Line Shipping’s management’s decision in June not to overturn a wage freeze that was imposed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Holding a placard titled “No more concessions by seafarers”, H-Line Shipping Seafarers’ Union chairman Kwon Ki-heung said, "Although we have made concessions amounting to a wage freeze in the last two years, in June, the management overturned everything that we had already agreed with and said that there could be no sharp wage increase without clear grounds.”

Kwon said that the management did not provide any logic for its decision, despite charter rates in the LNG and dry bulk segment having recovered, and thus, negotiations broke down.

He continued, “For eight years, we have achieved safe operation despite cost reduction and sailed and maintained vessels day and night to pursue company profits.”

Kwon noted that H-Line had maintained earnings, with net profit actually increasing 28% year-on-year in 2021, to US$116.8 million.

He said, “We need to treat seafarers as best as we did in the past and strengthen the ship management support personnel by increasing the onshore organisation. We need large-scale investment for business transformation, not cost reduction.

"If the company refuses to do so and sticks to the management based only on shame as it is now, the crew will engage in industrial action.”

Since June, South Korea has witnessed industrial action or threats to strike, as inflationary pressures have made workers and employees demand increments. In June, more than 20,000 truck drivers went on strike, resulting in logistical chaos that ended only after concessions were made.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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