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South Korean pharmaceutical workers condemn Zoetis

12 May, 2020IndustriALL Global Union has stepped in to support its Korean affiliate, KCTF, whose members are victim of labour violations at multinational animal medicine company Zoetis.

Zoetis management in South Korea has blocked the effort of employees to form a union, committing several instances of intimidation and harassment, and undermining of the union since June 2019. The violations have been taken up by the Ministry of Labour, which has identified unfair labour practices.


IndustriALL today wrote to the Zoetis CEO, Kristin Peck, at the company’s headquarters in New Jersey, USA, to demand a fair resolution to the labour rights violations in South Korea.

The details of the case pertain to a group of Zoetis employees in South Korea who formed a union in 2015. In 2018 the company began discriminating against union members by prioritizing non-union members in promotions. Management’s hostile behaviour in negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) included strong restrictions on union leave, while at the same time unilaterally declaring a wage increase outside of bargaining.

In June 2019, new HR managers began to intimidate anyone connected to the union. The CBA was not implemented and union officers and members were threatened with sanctions, accusations and charges. This moved the union to take partial strike action on 25 and 26 June. The employers responded by completely shutting down the workplace for 28 days.


The Ministry of Labour intervened, and witnessed the employer’s unfair labour practices. These included punishments for union membership, harassment and bullying, and contacting family members with the letter of disciplinary action against union members.

In a further escalation of management’s unlawful attack on the union, in October the local union chair was sanctioned with a three-week suspension and 14 members were disciplined. This was ruled unfair by the labour relations commission, and moved the union to take partial strike action again, from 20 November 2019.

On 10 January 2020, the Ministry of Labour transferred the case of unfair labour practices to the public prosecution service, with charges of negligence in collective bargaining, discriminating against union members, and illicit lockout.

On 13 March 2020, management ordered the local union chair to stay at home, to stop all contact with other employees, including union members, and to stop using company electronic systems. On 10 April, the local union chair was sacked. Management has either already sanctioned or is currently running a disciplinary procedure against 18 trade union members.

The employer refused a union request on 26 March for paid annual leave to be used when employees have flu symptoms, as Korea does not provide a legal system for sick leave.

IndustriALL pharmaceuticals director Tom Grinter said:

“Our KCTF sisters and brothers continue to picket and protest locally against these shocking violations. IndustriALL demands an urgent intervention from global headquarters of Zoetis to require South Korean managers to act in line with the law, international labour standards, and the company’s own core beliefs.”

Zoetis is the world’s leading animal health company, employing 10,000 people worldwide, and making US$6 billion per year in revenue. The company researches and manufactures pharmaceutical products for animals, including veterinary vaccines, medicines and diagnostic products, as well as a range of products used in livestock farming. Zoetis was previously part of the large multinational Pfizer, until becoming an independent company in 2013.