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Hyundai ordered to recognize precarious worker as a direct employee

17 February, 2011After another successful ruling in the courts in South Korea, KMWU is demanding that Hyundai bring all its subcontracted workers into direct employment.

SOUTH KOREA: In another major legal victory for workers in South Korea, the Seoul High Court declared that Choe Byeong-seung, 35, was a direct employee of Hyundai while employed at its Ulsan manufacturing complex between 2003 to 2005.

In issuing the verdict on February 10, the High Court said Choe was not a subcontracted labourer as claimed by Hyundai but a dispatched labourer who "carried out his duties mixed with regular workers on either side of the conveyer belt, and Hyundai Motor made decisions regarding workload, methods, sequence, etc."

The High Court followed the ruling of the Supreme Court of July last year, which said that Hyundai Motor had to regard Choe, who had been illegally dispatched for more than two years, as a regularly employed worker.

Following the ruling, leaders of the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) and its local branch, the Hyundai Irregular Workers' Union, held a press conference in front of Hyundai's headquarters in Seoul demanding the world's fifth largest auto maker must take this ruling as a signal to bring all subcontract workers into direct employment.

Hyundai Motor, however, made it clear that it had no intention of accepting the meaning of the High Court's ruling. The company's assertion is that this ruling is limited to Choe as an individual, and therefore cannot be applied collectively to workers from other subcontractors.

Hyundai Motor stated that, with regard to yesterday's ruling on the case of Choe too, it would continue its efforts to obtain the judgment that in-house subcontracting was not related to the dispatching of workers, by appealing again to the Supreme Court and submitting a constitutional appeal regarding laws on dispatching.

KMWU members at Hyundai's Ulan plant held a 25 day sit-down strike in November and December last year, demanding the direct employment of precarious workers, in compliance with the court rulings. The chair of KMWU's local Hyundai Irregular Workers' Union, who is still wanted by police for the strike because the bargaining to drop criminal and civil charges relating to the strike and the other demands hasn't made progress, sought shelter at a temple on February 9, 2011. Meanwhile precarious workers who led the strike and have had their bank accounts frozen are still unable to access their own personal funds.