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Hyundai upgrades temporary workers

June 14,2007
Hyundai Motor Co. is expected to convert some 350 non-regular office workers into regular employees by the end of this year at the request of its labor union.
It is the first such move by a large-scale industrial manufacturer in response to a law extending legal protections to so-called extraordinary workers, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Non-regular workers including temporary and part-time workers will receive regular-worker status after they have worked in a company for over two years after the bill goes into effect.
Some financial and retail firms have also taken steps to comply early with the bill.
According to the Labor Ministry’s guide to the new legislation, private companies with more than 300 employees and state-run organizations will be banned from discriminating against casual workers over working conditions, including salary, bonuses, transportation fees, and working hours. The National Statistical Office reported that non regular workers earned just 64 percent of the income paid to regular workers as of August last year.
Hyundai said its decision to advance the date to convert non-regular workers to staff status came after its labor union officially asked for the action on Monday. “The non-regular worker conversion is aimed at building confidence between the management and the labor union,” a company spokesman said.
Hyundai management and unionized workers began talks yesterday to work out the details of how to implement the agreement. The results of the discussion are expected to be announced no later than next week, according to industry insiders.
An official from the non-regular worker policy team at the Ministry of Labor said, “As one of the top business groups in Korea, Hyundai is spearheading a trend that will help relieve job insecurity in the current workforce and stabilize labor-management relations.”
Yesterday, Hana Bank, Korea’s fourth-largest lender, also announced that it has converted another 141 bank tellers, or 32 percent of its contract workers, to permanent status. The number of temp workers at Hana Bank’s service counters has declined from 1,000 in 2005 to about 300 currently.
Offering permanent jobs to non-regular workers has been one of the thorniest issues in management-labor talks since many companies, forced to release workers during the Asian currency crisis, later filled the void with temporaries.
Woori Bank stunned banks and labor unions earlier this year by offering permanent jobs to more than 3,000 temp workers. LG Telecom gave permanent worker status to 150 sales-people in February. It was the first cellular phone service provider to take such an action. A leading retail group, Shinsegae, is considering taking similar measures soon to give regular status to part-time female cashiers at its department and discount stores.


By Seo Ji-eun, Jung Ha-won Staff Writers [spring@joongang.co.kr]


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