Hyundai hoping to settle labor issues

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Hyundai hoping to settle labor issues

Hyundai Motor said yesterday it will resume talks on transforming temporary workers into permanent members of companies’ work forces after negotiations were stalled for 40 days.

The nation’s largest automaker, which is now in the process of compensating consumers in the U.S. after it overstated the fuel economy ratings on most of its vehicles sold there, plans to hold a special meeting today.

Management will sit down with representatives from two unions representing both classes of employee, as well as another for in-house subcontractors and the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, the nation’s top umbrella union for shipbuilders and carmakers.

The meeting aims to cover all major issues regarding workers from in-house contractors, including enhancing the labor environment for them and rehiring laid-off workers.

Hyundai’s management originally handled the issue with its permanent workers’ union during wage negotiations that started in May. However, the union for temporary workers has been seeking a separate meeting since August.

“We wanted to hold the meeting quickly, but a recent election in the labor union and a protest by some workers caused delays,” the company said in a statement.

Two temporary workers have been staging an illegal protest on a power transmission tower near the company’s Ulsan plant since Oct. 17 demanding their working status be upgraded.

In August, Hyundai offered to make nearly half of its 6,800 temporary staff permanent workers on a graded time scale. This would affect 1,000 employees this year and another 2,000 by no later than 2015. However, their union opposed the idea, saying that everyone must be upgraded.

As tensions flared, 400 temporary workers engaged in a bloody brawl with management later that month.

The Supreme Court issued a ruling in February that would seem to support the union’s cause. It confirmed its initial verdict from 2010 that Choe Byeong-seung, a temporary worker with an in-house subcontractor, had been unfairly dismissed by Hyundai Motor after requesting he be hired as a permanent employee. The judge ruled that as Choe had been directed and managed by Hyundai Motor for over two years, he should have been made a direct employee in line with the labor law.

Hyundai sees the case as an isolated incident rather than a legal precedent that can open the floodgates for other temporary employees.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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