Two workers climbed a pylon and remain there at the Hyundai Motor plant in Ulsan on 17 October protesting against the company’s failure to recognise the permanent status of employees even after a positive Supreme Court decision.
The protest started at 10:30 pm on 17 October when Choi Byeong-seung and CheonUi-bong climbed the pylon demanding Hyundai Motor to resolve the issue of illegal use of dispatch workers.
Choi Byeong-seung, 36, a member of the Hyundai Motor Irregular Workers' Union, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union through the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), was dismissed in 2005 from his position as an in-house subcontractor employee at Hyundai Motor. However according to the High Court decision in February 2012 the company had to offer Choi a permanent employee contract based on the fact that he had worked for Hyundai for more than two years, and therefore could not be fired as a subcontractor. Cheon Ui-bong, 31, is Secretary General of the Hyundai Motor Irregular Workers' Local.
After years of frustration, legal battles and pleas to politicians, Choi has been prompted to take more drastic steps. Both men remain on the 50 meter tall pylon attached with a rope, Choi at a height of 15 meters and Cheon at 20 meters. The company hired private security guards who tried to move them down, however so far these attempts were not successful. Given the cold, wet weather, the workers’ supporters wanted to transfer some warm cloths to the protesters, however company guards did not allow it.
Back in 2006, the International Metalworkers’ Federation, one of the founders of the IndustriALL Global Union, together with the Korean unions lodged a complaint to the ILO http://www.imfmetal.org/files/06090512203284/ILO_complaint_E.pdf regarding the Violation of Irregular Workers’ Freedom of Assembly. The case of Choi is mentioned in this complaint together with a number of others.
On 24 October another protester, chairman of the KMWU Hyundai Motor Irregular Workers' Local, Park Hyeon-je was violently arrested by plainclothes police who stuffed him inside a vehicle while he was inside the Hyundai Motor plant. This morning Park started a hunger strike.
The protesters receive strong support from their colleagues, permanent workers, who in solidarity with protesters refused to work overtime on 25 October at Hyundai Motor in Ulsan.
Earlier, IndustriALL reported on the case http://www.industriall-union.org/justice-for-korean-workers-at-hyundai-kia-motors
The Hyundai Motor company is taking an extremely hostile line, including bringing forward accusations against 26 union officials, one of whom is Park Hyeon-je. In a bid to produce further damage the company sued the union for one billion won (US$900,000) for damages and withheld wages.