Hyundai to put graveyard shift to bed in 2013
The company agreed with its labor union to maintain the volume of production and total wages paid, even after the change.
To prepare, Hyundai plans to invest 300 billion won ($259.3 million) in facilities next year.
Labor unions and the government have been agitating for automakers to abolish night shifts, and other local auto manufacturers are expected to follow suit.
Hyundai now has two shifts. The day shift goes from 8 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. and the night shift begins at 9 p.m. and finishes at 8 a.m.
Beginning in 2013, the company will have two day shifts. The morning shift will go from 6:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. and the afternoon shift will start at 3:10 p.m. and end at 12:50 a.m.
The country’s auto industry has had chronic problems related to overwork and Koreans are the only automakers in the world that still have graveyard shifts. Hyundai, Kia Motors, GM Korea and Renault Samsung Motors all have night shifts. Only Ssangyong Motor does not because it has not been running at full capacity since 2009 when the company underwent court receivership before it was acquired by India-based Mahindra & Mahindra Limited last year.
Even some of Hyundai’s overseas assembly plants work night shifts. Night shifts are also common at Korean car component makers, as they have to keep up with demand from auto manufacturers.
In developed countries, most manufacturers adopted two day shifts in the early 1990s.
Overwork at Korean manufacturers is a tradition. Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo once said factories should never stop running.
Hyundai’s management first agreed with the labor union to abolish the night shift in 2005 after two years of negotiations. Once again, in 2008, both sides concurred in collective bargaining on eliminating the night shift on the condition that they maintain the amount of total production and wages. However, the agreement was never implemented.
Hyundai’s decision stems from growing government pressure to improve working conditions for auto workers. On Nov. 17, Minister of Employment and Labor Lee Chae-pil visited GM Korea’s plant in Incheon, Gyeonggi, and asked for improvements in working conditions.
“Night shifts raise the chances of brain and cardiac diseases among workers,” Lee said during his visit.
Hyundai estimates that if the night shift is eliminated, average annual working hours will drop by 479 hours from 4,178 hours currently and that auto production will decline by 187,000 units from the current 1.64 million in the country. Now the company and labor union are in discussions over how to minimize production losses.
By Limb Jae-un [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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