The decision to abolish the overnight shift came after ten years of struggle and negotiations by the KMWU with management, which at times included protest action to support the workers’ demands. Finally in August 2012 the parties came to an unprecedented agreement.
The company will test the new system of shifts for 2 weeks to see if there are unforeseen problems. As of 4 March 2013 the graveyard shift will be completely ended. In the new shifts, team one will work 8 hours and 40 minutes from 7am to 3:40pm. Team two takes over for a 9 hour and 50 minute shift from 3:40pm to 1:30am.
Before, the company had 2 shifts from 8am to 6:50pm, 10 hours and 50 minutes, and from 9pm to 8am, 11 hours. Workers used to work on a fortnightly basis. The work at nights and long working hours overall caused severe sleep disorders and even death from overwork, known in Korea as “gwarosa”. With the new system in place Korean autoworkers will be able to enjoy a better quality of life.
According to local news reports the company plans to invest a total of 300 billion won (US$282 million) to make the facility more efficient to make up for the slightly shorter shifts. Hyundai Motor’s sister company Kia Motors is also getting rid of night shifts on 4 March. The work hours will be the same as at Hyundai.
This move serves as a benchmark to other local carmakers, for instance GM Korea plans to abolish night shifts starting from the beginning of next year. The change will also encourage auto suppliers to synchronize in working hours with their major customers. Hyundai Mobis and Halla Climate Control said they are reviewing their systems of working hours.