|The father of the deceased CJ Logistics delivery worker protests in front of the company's headquarters in Seoul, on Oct. / Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon|
By Kim Jae-heun
Only four days after a 40-year-old delivery worker at CJ Logistics died from respiratory difficulty on Oct. 8, another man in his 20s died from alleged overwork at Coupang's distribution center in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province, last Monday.
According to the taskforce established to support COVID-19 victims at Coupang's workplace, the young man was employed part-time but he worked over 40 hours a week. He occasionally worked overtime due to lack of staff.
The taskforce added that Coupang has recently imposed higher standards of labor productivity on its workers, measured by units per hour (UPH).
"A manager is monitoring every individual's UPH in real time and if the rate slows for even 10 minutes, he will reprimand you. Some people can't even go to the toilet," a taskforce official said.
The victim is said to have no chronic diseases and he was neither a smoker nor a drinker.
Coupang denied the worker had died from overwork saying the taskforce is distorting the truth.
"We are very sad about the death of the worker. Though, we want to clarify that he was not working in the distribution section where the taskforce alleges he worked. He took the job of supplying the empty boxes and vinyl at the logistics center," a Coupang official said.
"Like all our deliverymen, everyone at distribution centers works a 52-hour week. Even part-time workers cannot work more than 52 hours and we check this weekly. The deceased had been working 44 hours per week for three months on average."
Eight workers in the logistics field have died this year, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said.
Five out of eight were employees at CJ Logistics.
Despite the government's urging of logistics firms to increase their number of workers, especially ahead of the Chuseok holiday earlier this month, hiring has remained low.
Hwang Deok-soon, a senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for job creation, said in an interview with local media that the government may put stricter regulations for logistics workers to register for occupational health and safety insurance. Some delivery workers do not register for the insurance, as it is not mandatory.
"For a long time, we have been exempting those who wish not to register for the insurance. If possible, we will pass a bill during the regular session of the National Assembly to limit the cases of exemption to those with extenuating circumstances only," Hwang said.