Hyundai union threatens stoppages after worker self-immolation

SEOUL Mon Jan 9, 2012 2:40am EST

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SEOUL (Reuters) - The labor union of Hyundai Motor has threatened to suspend all engine output in the company's biggest production base from Tuesday, saying an employee set himself on fire to protest the company's alleged "suppression" of unionized workers.

The incident indicates labor issues remain a potential vulnerability for the strongly performing South Korean carmaker, although it avoided strikes for a third year in a row last year.

The worker and union member with the surname Shin was found in flames at a Hyundai engine plant in the southeastern city of Ulsan at around noon on Sunday, and is currently in critical condition at a hospital in nearby Busan, Hyundai's union said in a statement.

The union said in a separate statement that a factory manager had tried to "unfairly control" Shin after he reported problems with engine quality to management, citing files found on his computer.

"Hyundai's management has not abandoned its outdated labor management policy, causing frequent conflicts with labor," the union said.

The union warned that it would suspend engine output throughout Hyundai's complex in Ulsan and refuse overtime and weekend work from Tuesday should the company fail to accept demand including preventing the repeat of incidents of alleged suppression or excessive monitoring.

A company spokesman denied any improper conduct in the treatment of unionized workers.

Employees at the plant where Shin worked already suspended production after the incident.

"The police are investigating (Shin's) case and we are keeping an eye on the probe," the spokesman said.

He said the suspension so far would not affect engine production as the plant, which produces diesel engines for Hyundai's Veracruz and Kia's Mohave SUVs, was relatively small and inventory and other plants could compensate for stoppages.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)

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Comments (5)
Analist wrote:
And what about concern for the employee? It is expected that workers in Korea, China and India will seek protection of unions eventually. DId management think they will be content with poor working conditions and low wages while the middle classes enjoy the automobiles that they construct? Get educated and read some history–except for the Republicans, most educated people sympathize with the worker.

Jan 08, 2012 10:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JCooper wrote:
@Analist, You need to get out from the rock you’ve been under. Korean auto workers make as much, if not more than the US counterpart, and their working condition is no different from ours in the states.

Jan 08, 2012 11:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kejser73 wrote:
@JCooper

You mean that the Korean workers have the same social, health and economic means as the US worker ?
What rock did YOU live under ?

Jan 09, 2012 1:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
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