Ruling on Hyundai workers’ status questioned

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Ruling on Hyundai workers’ status questioned

Proper judicial procedure was not followed when a Supreme Court panel ruled in July that employees who have worked for an affiliated company of Hyundai Motor for more than two years should be elevated to regular workers, the JoongAng Ilbo has found.

The panel should have discussed the case with other panels on the court, the newspaper found.

The Supreme Court has three panels in its judicial system, with each panel consisting of more than three justices. There are 13 justices and one chief justice.

Under the law, if a panel wants to rule differently than a previous panel, two-thirds of all justices and the chief justice must discuss whether to overturn the ruling.

“The third panel [which ruled in favor of the workers in July] didn’t keep this regulation,” a lawyer who used to work in the Supreme Court said. “And it should discuss with all of the justices of the court and the chief justice because the issue affects a wide range of the economy and society across the country as well.”

The issue on how to deal with temporary employees working for affiliated company of Hyundai Motor has been controversial since an irregular worker surnamed Choe working for an affiliated Hyundai Motor company filed a lawsuit against headquarters in 2005 asking for a regular job.

But the first panel of the Supreme Court said in 2006 that the workers of the affiliated company are not considered as being hired and managed directly by Hyundai Motor but by the subcontracted company. Hyundai Motor, it said, had no responsibility to provide benefits.

In 2008, Choe filed an appeal, but the Seoul High Court also dismissed the case, saying managers of Hyundai Motor didn’t direct the temporary workers, and the affiliated companies had the right to manage temporary workers.

But the ruling was overturned in July 2010 when the third panel of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the workers, saying Hyundai Motor directed them, meaning Hyundai Motor had the responsibility of being the workers’ employer.

After the latest ruling, 1,941 workers filed a compensation suit on Nov. 4 against Hyundai Motor, asking that they be made regular workers. That case is pending.


By Kwon Suk-chun, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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