South Korean consumers are calling for a boycott of the bakery chain Paris Baguette, after a young woman was crushed to death at one of the factories.
Not only did the company brush off her demise like it was nothing and resumed operations at the factory the very next day, but the company allegedly mishandled the response to her death as well.
On 15 October, an unnamed 23-year-old female employee was working the graveyard shift and had been operating a saucer mixer alone when her upper body was pulled into the machine.
This accident happened at the bakery chain’s factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi province.
The aforesaid machine should have been operated by two people, said the critics.
And while there is no official law that stops employers from telling their employees to work alone at night, they must make sure that it happens under safe working conditions.
When her co-workers discovered her the next day, they had to pull her mangled body from the machine.
Instead of suspending the factory to investigate the incident and the safety lapse, Paris Baguette resumed its operations the next day.
Worse, it was alleged that the management had merely covered the machine with a white sheet and factory employees were told to carry on with their work next to the accident site.
Are you mourning the death of the employee or the functionality of the machine?
Anger towards Paris Baguette’s parent company, SPC Group, further increased after it was revealed that the representatives tried to negotiate a settlement with the deceased female worker’s family on the night of her funeral.
The victim’s mother had told Next Shark that the representatives had offered the settlement in exchange for not pressing charges.
However, the mother was undeterred and purportedly engaged a layer the next day.
That was not the last of the SPC Group’s callous transgressions.
Apparently, the bakery had sent bread for the funeral’s guests.
A young worker died in a sauce mixing machine at a factory where safety failures have been found. It sparked a boycott against brands like Paris Baguette (owned by SPC).
Her relative says the company sent Paris Baguette bread as a gift to her funeral. https://t.co/5rCFbSwjCR
— Hyunsu Yim (@hyunsuinseoul) October 20, 2022
They sent bread from the place where she had died. They sent bread, when it is a stark reminder of why she died.
Sure, a SPC spokesperson later explained that it was part of a care package when an employee or their family member dies, but this is a workplace fatality at a bread factory.
What on earth were they thinking??
Needless to say, the South Korean netizens picked up their figurative pitch forks and torches to burn SPC Group to the ground with their comments.
One wrote, “She was killed at a bread factory. Even the thought of bread would cause the family sadness. Why would they send the family bread? Are they psychopaths?”
Another netizen said that they were speechless by the utter disrespect that the company showed and questioned why they could see how hurtful their actions were to the family.
The 23-year-old’s death was basically a spark that ignited the flame, as more of SPC’s unsafe working conditions resurfaced again.
Just a week prior to her death, another employee’s hand got caught in the production machine. However, the company did not send the worker to the hospital for treatment, citing that they were just a part-time worker and therefore not entitled to such benefits.
Earlier this May, a group of activists protested that the SPC Group allegedly failed to provide women employees with their basic labour rights. The activists claimed that the workers weren’t guaranteed one-hour lunch breaks, annual paid holidays, and menstrual leaves.
This is all the more concerning when you realise that 80% of Paris Baguette bakers are women.
Although SPC Group’s chairman Huh Young issued a public apology at a press conference and pledged to invest 100 billion won (S$99.1 million) to improve workplace safety over the next three years, it did little to appease the people.
Three days after the conference, on 20 October, labour unionists and other demonstrators came together to stage a memorial ceremony in front of SPC’s headquarters.
One-person protests also occurred in front of 1,000 Paris Baguette outlets across the country.
Hashtags like “SPC boycott”, “SPC killer company” and “No-buy movement” trended on South Korean Twitter, with some Tweets garnering thousands of reposts.
The boycott is working too.
The Korea Economic Daily reported that sales at Paris Baguette franchises have plunged by 30% in the past week (17-23 Oct) compared to the same period of the previous year.
Stores have been left with boxes upon boxes of unsold bread.
The calls for a unilateral boycott are spreading further too.
On 20 October, France’s General Confederation of Labour paid tribute to the deceased employee by staging a demonstration in front of a Paris Baguette store in Paris.
Some Twitter users have gone as far as collating store locations and pinning them on the maps of their own country, while urging others to stop supporting their business.
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