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16 June, 2020For eight years, Hyundai has tried to sack a German trade unionist. On 19 June, a German labour court will rule on the case.

A committed trade unionist and member of the works council, this is another step in Hyundai’s efforts to get rid of the designer, hired at Hyundai’s Motor Europe Technical Center (HMETC), Germany, in March 2003. The court case is the second legal dispute that the union member had to bring against the Korean carmaker in order to fight the false accusations from the company whose objective is to fire him.

Hyundai’s behaviour is not only about this individual case; it is also about disdain for German union IG Metall, representing the large majority of German autoworkers. Hyundai has instead promoted a yellow union, AUB, created with support of Siemens management, to avoid any dialogue and confrontation.

The HMETC was established in Germany in 2003 with two core business objectives;  improve the  perception of Hyundai and Kia products, and give customers the impression that the cars have been engineered and developed in Europe and based on related high standards.

According to Georg Leutert, IndustriALL auto director, the strategy has been successful.

“Very few car companies have grown more than Hyundai/Kia in the last 15 years, particularly in Europe and in the US. Is it then too much to ask that Hyundai accepts other aspects of Europe, like accepting the legitimate union in the workplace?

“Instead of engaging with a yellow union, Hyundai should have a constructive dialogue with members of its works council.  Hyundai should sit down to discuss the complaint against unsafe working conditions and excess working hours, instead of trying to fire a union member and intimidating the work force.”

Hyundai favours an anti-democratic and anti-union approach and pursues a policy that strictly avoids any kind of equal partnership or dialogue:

  • Unionizing the workforce in Korea was an intense struggle and only by industrial actions, including massive strikes, has it been possible to achieve today’s standards of decent pay and working conditions.
  • Only five out ten of all Hyundai and Kia plants outside Korea and China are organized.
  • Unhappy with the union organizing workers in their plant in India, Hyundai helped establish a second union, which originally was close to management.
  • In some cases, like in the US, management openly announces that they don’t want a union and when hiring, they avoid workers with union background.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches says:

“While many companies increase their efforts to comply with ILO core labour standards, the Hyundai Group show utter disrespect for their workers.

“IndustriALL Global Union calls upon Hyundai to immediately stop harassing union members and engage in genuine social dialogue.”

Under the leadership of IndustriALL and the Korean Metallworkers’ Union, the Global Hyundai-Kia Trade Union Network will continue to coordinate trade union activities in Hyundai/Kia operations worldwide. The network will continue its attempts to enter into a constructive dialogue with the company on a global framework agreement to ensure Hyundai Group lives up to the ILO core labor standards worldwide.