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Justice for Korean workers at Hyundai Kia Motors

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22 August, 2012Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) stages a series of strikes demanding higher wages, regularization of precarious workers and the abolishment of night shift work, which is causing serious danger to workers’ health.

On Wednesday, 22 August KMWU, an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, asks the international trade union community to hold pickets and protest actions in support of the unions at Hyundai and Kia Motors. IndustriALL calls on affiliates to support this appeal of Korean autoworkers and hold pickets and share the information and photos about the actions at: http://kmwu-kctu.tumblr.com.

Since July 2012, Korean workers have held a number of strikes demanding the company increase monthly wages by 151,696 won ($134 US) and use 30 per cent of the company’s net profit to cover the performance-based bonuses scheme. 

The union is demanding the transfer of precarious workers to permanent contracts, so far however the company is offering gradual permanent contracts to only 3,000 workers by 2015 out of the 8,000 current in-house subcontractors. Earlier this year, the Korean Supreme Court ruled in favour of a Hyundai Motor subcontract worker’s suit submitted back in 2005, ruling the worker be promoted to a permanent employee status, thus establishing a precedent for change in the Korean automotive industry, which currently makes extensive use of a subcontracted workforce to extract additional profits.

The KMWU also insists on abolishing night shift by replacing the current ten hour shifts with shorter, daytime-only schedules, with all workers off the lines by midnight at the latest. The work at nights and long working hours imposed within the current shifts system in place is causing severe sleep disorders and even death from overwork, known in Korea as “gwarosa”.

Together Hyundai and Kia form the world's fifth largest automaker by sales. Both companies registered strong sales in the first half of this year, with Hyundai achieving an 11.5 per cent increase in sales since last year and Kia celebrating a 12 per cent jump from a year earlier during the first six months of the year. Hyundai owns 34 per cent of Kia Motors through shares.