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Hyundai Motor`s labor union picks moderate as new leader

Hyundai Motor`s labor union picks moderate as new leader

Posted November. 11, 2013 05:13,   


“It is frustrating to be accused of being `aristocratic` laborers. Fights with no substance and practical interests caused damage only to union members.” This is from the victory speech by Lee Kyung-hoon who was elected as the head of Hyundai Motor’s labor union. Lee pursued the middle course and practical interests. He had the experience of maintaining a win-win situation for both the labor and the management without a strike for three years from 2009 when he was leading the labor union.

In this election, three hardliners of the five candidates were eliminated in the first round of voting. Especially, the candidate from the incumbent union leadership, which has often gone on strike making unreasonable demands, received the least votes. According to the company, the current leadership of the union created losses worth of 4.4 trillion won (4.13 U.S. billion dollars) over the past two years by going on strikes and rejecting to work overtime. Criticisms on the union mounted as such moves lead to difficulties in suppliers and local economy. The court sentenced that each member of the union who illegally occupied the factory and stopped the operation must pay indemnity of about 100 million won (93,940 dollars).

Due to the economic recession, only 3.5 out of 100 young job seekers get a job. Hyundai Motor is a popular company among them. This year’s competition rate for new recruits hit a record high of 1 to 83. The average salary of the workers in Hyundai Motor is 94 million won (88,304 dollars) as of 2012. Nevertheless, its union continuously goes on strike, demanding various benefits and wage increase. People’s criticism toward the union is natural. The election of the moderate candidate is also reflecting such atmosphere.

Hyundai Motor is Korea’s major automobile company, which plays a key role for the Korean economy. Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors along with Samsung Electronics accounted for 28.6 percent of net profit earned by the country`s all businesses last year. Global automakers are fiercely competing to develop the next-generation car based on advanced green technology. The alliance of global companies to preempt the future market is frequently witnessed and emerging economics such as China and India are chasing the frontrunners fast. Although Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group ranks fifth now, it can be surpassed anytime. This is why the labor union of Hyundai Motor should stop seeking immediate gains and work with the management to move forward.

The labor union of Hyundai Motor has 47,000 registered members, which is the largest in Korea. In addition to the executives and employees of Hyundai Motor, 400,000 workers from its 5,000 suppliers are working for Hyundai Motor. Despite its remarkable influence on Korea’s labor-management relations, the union has failed to set a good example for others. The new leader should fulfill his commitment in “eliminating 26-year-old bad practices and establishing principles and standards of collective bargaining that befit the status of global company.”