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Strikes by temporary workers at Hyundai Motor spread

Posted November. 18, 2010 16:44,   


Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, the temporary workers` union at Hyundai Motor’s No. 3 factory in Ulsan sent to some 130 union members a text message saying, “Begin strike now.”

Those who got the message simultaneously walked off from assembly lines, which stopped thereafter.

○ Snowballing losses

A combined 3,200 workers including regular employees who work by day and employees from partner companies work at the factory. Though just 3 percent of staff stopped working, assembly lines ground to a halt because union members occupied the lines when substitute workers arrived on the scene.

Unionized workers occupied production lines for about three hours and left around 11:50 a.m. Production went online again at 1 p.m.

A similar situation happened at the carmaker’s No. 2 Ulsan factory. Production at the No. 1 plant was stopped for three days as of Wednesday as non-regular union members occupied the assembly line for car doors.

The automaker suffered 42 billion won (37 million U.S. dollars) in losses as the strikes prevented the production of 4,269 units.

The union for non-regular workers said, “We will continue our strikes until Hyundai Motor converts employees of partner companies to permanent workers.”

Hyundai, however, said it has no labor contracts with staff of partner companies since the Supreme Court recognizes the independence of such companies’ owners.

○ Court ruling leads to strikes

The direct cause of the strikes was the request of Chungmoon Corp. to seal labor contracts with Hyundai. Chungmoon took the business right of Dongsung Corp., another partner company that worked with the seat division of Hyundai, after Dongsung folded due to internal problems.

Of 59 former Dongsung staff, 30 signed labor contracts with Hyundai but the remaining 29 went on strike, urging the company to make them permanent workers.

The Employment and Labor Ministry deemed the strikes illegal, however, since they are not about working conditions but about employment status.

A ministry official said, “On the application of the labor dispute mediation filed by the non-regular workers` union at Hyundai Motor Monday, the central labor committee said the strike doesn’t satisfy the conditions for a labor dispute since Hyundai is not the direct employer of the non-regular workers. Despite the ruling, they went on what can be considered illegal strikes.”

○ Firm response by police and prosecutors

Prosecutors in Ulsan called the strikes by the non-regular workers illegal, with one saying, “The request to confirm their employment status is not about working conditions so it doesn’t qualify as grounds for a strike.”

“A case rejected by the Supreme Court was sent to the Seoul High Court and the trial is underway, so we can say the strike is illegal based on the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

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