Following KFSU-Chanel Korea Workers Union’s ongoing negotiations with Chanel Korea Management on workplace safety and human resource policies during the pandemic, a shocking revelation relating to workplace sexual harassment was recently uncovered.
The union had received a complaint from one worker who was forcibly transferred from the Duty-Free shops to department stores. They surveyed more workers in October and at least 8 workers came forward with accounts of experiencing sexual harassment over the years. The victims feared rejecting the advances made by the key alleged perpetrator who reportedly wields authority over promotion, wage increase and job transfer.
The KFSU-Chanel Korea Workers Union made an official complaint to the management on the basis of the survey results. The management responded immediately by hiring a law firm, notorious for its anti-union tactics, to handle the investigation into the claims.
The hired lawyers conducted a series of interviews with the victims and made all interviewed workers sign a non-disclosure agreement. Sister Kim So-Yeon, President of Chanel Korea Workers Union participated in the interviews as an observer and were shocked by the demand. She feared the process and the demand may have re-victimised the victims and have caused further hurt to them.
Nonetheless, the sexual harassment issue surfaced when the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) reported it in the Sunday evening news on November 22. Affected victims, with their identities protected, recounted their harrowing experience on the program.
The union is demanding that the Chanel head office in London take notice and investigate into the problems happening in Chanel Korea.
Korea had only recently amended the “Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Violence at Workplace Act” in September 2019. The amendment requires the employer to protect victims under categories such as unfair Human Resource related measures, performance appraisal, education and training, working environment.
UNI Apro, in conjunction with UNI Global Union’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, extend its fullest solidarity support to the KFSU-Chanel Korea Workers Union in their fight to achieve justice for the workers experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Note: The article have been edited to reflect the amendment of the “Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Violence at Workplace Act” as being in September 2019, instead of 24 September.