This international cooperation started in March 2008, based upon the initiative of trade unionists from Slovakia and South Korea. For the first time trade unionists from both countries exchanged information about collective bargaining and workers’ representation structures at company and national level. Already in 2008 the management put all its effort to prevent the trade unionists to meet and tried to cancel the meeting. As an important result of this first meeting we can consider the agreement between Slovak and South Korean trade unions to continue in the cooperation and a decision was adopted to create the international network under the auspices and with the involvement of the International Metalworkers’ Federation.
When IMF became involved, representatives of Hyundai and KIA companies in other countries than Slovakia and South Korea were contacted and coordinated. Later on other countries became part of this network, such as Czech Republic, Germany, India, USA, Turkey, together with Slovakia and South Korea.
The next official meeting of the network took place in South Korea in March 2009. Participants discussed issues such as global trends in automotive industry including the challenges for the trade unions, situation in individual Hyundai/KIA plants and involved countries. To another very important topics discussed in South Korea belonged the topic of organising workers (challenges and strategies) but also trade union and employee rights and the behaviour of this multinational company towards the employees’ representatives. We were again witnesses of the management efforts to prevent the workers representatives to participate in this international meeting.
In September 2010 the Hyundai/KIA network met again in Slovakia/Bratislava. Participants discussed in more depth topics such as organizing workers and situation in individual plants. There was also the first exchange of opinions about the possibility to reach an IMF international framework agreement and also the possibility to create the European Works Council (EWC).
The next meeting ofthe Hyundai/KIA network took place in Ostrava in Czech Republic in November 2011. The main issue the participants were dealing with was the issue of European Works Council creation. Participants agreed to send the necessary requests to management and that in negotiation they will do us much as possible to include also the non European locations into the EWC. Another very important conclusion reached at that meeting was the creation of “Coordination Group” – to have a network of contact persons in each individual country. The main coordinator of the contact persons is Hyewon Chong from South Korea.
During this recent meeting the importance of the existence of this network was stressed by all participants, especially bearing in mind the obstacles the workers’ representatives are faced with from the side of management, who use all the possible tools to prevent any meetings and contacts between workers’ representatives. Management of Hyundai/KIA tries to block this network and tries to suppress the trade union movement not only at European level but globally.
During the meeting it was declared by the participants especially from Germany (where ther was an attempt by management to install a yellow works council) and Czech Republic that after the initiation of EWC for the Hyundai Company, the relations with the management worsened. A very complicated situation existed and continues also in South Korea due to the collective bargaining and protest activities against the management. The situation is also not positive in India where the yellow trade unions were installed, nor in USA –where an anti-trade union discriminatory hearing was taking place.
At the meeting the trade union representatives discussed the situation in individual plants and exchanged information about the daily trade union work – organizing workers, collective bargaining, wages, observance of the collective agreements and the national legislation, etc. Participants also discussed different court cases/disputes that are taking place recently at the level of individual involved countries.
It was agreed that the strength of trade unions is the absolute precondition to be able to influence the management of this multinational company Hyundai/KIA. That is why the recruiting issue is very important.
- Participants agreed to create special database of all negative cases – incorrect behaviour of the management (in contradiction to agreed collective agreements or national legislation) for further use in the future to help the workers’ representatives to show the turned away face of this company to the public.
- Work on the EWC creation will continue, management has to respect the European rules and legislation. IndustriAll European Trade Union will be involved in this matter.
- Quarterly Newsletter about Hyundai/KIA will be published.
- Cooperation with non-European trade unions (South Korea, Turkey, India, USA...) will continue in the future.
- Information about the behaviour of the company will be provided to OECD, also to ILO and to the European Commission.
- IndustriaALL Global Union will prepare a letter to the management, where the dissatisfaction with the Hyundai management behaviour will be expressed.
At the end of the Hyundai/KIA Meeting it was agreed by the participants to organize the next meeting in Czech Republic in 2013 (4th week in November or at the beginning of December).