Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of a column appeared in <Labor Today> on Dec. 7, 2012, regarding the in-house subcontractor workers of Hyundai Motors. Conveying voices of all involved in this issue, it is very informative to see the differences and future prospects. All rights regarding this post stay with the author(s) of the original article or with <Labor Today> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institution(s) / position(s) to authentic one(s) as much as possible but, unfortunately, some of them still can be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link below.
Korea Metal Workers Union (KMWU) Hyundai Motors Irregular Workers (HMIW) branch member Mr. Byeong-seung Choi and secretary general Mr. Eui-bong Chun have been sitting on the power transmission tower near Ulsan factory more than 50 days by now. They demand Hyundai Motors to admit their illegal deployment of irregular workers and to stop new recruitment. They also demand police to arrest Chairperson Mr. Mong-gu Cheong. They are simply saying that Hyundai Motors should implement the Supreme Court’s ruling, “Hyundai Motors is a work place irregular workers are illegally deployed and hence Mr. Byeong-seung Choi is already a Hyundai Motor’s employee.” Not to mention the public opinion, Ministry of Employment and Labor (MoEL) and politicians ask company to exhibit sweeping change in stance on the matter. Politicians even proposed a so-called Byeong-seung Choi law (amendment of labor law) straining the rampage of lawsuits companies file against their workers and enabling the emergency execution order to illegal layoffs. In current 18th presidential race, two opposition candidates, during unification process, endorsed the resolution of Hyundai Motors irregular worker issue as their top priority in the joint announcement. Despite lengthening high tower protest, though, company is still firm. Special negotiation between company and union stands off for some while now. Going up the tower, Mr. Byeong-seung Choi said “I put everything on the line.” It’s getting frosty by day. Where can we find the solution for Hyundai Motors irregular workers issue?
“Hyundai Motors say they respect Supreme Court’s ruling but do not admit illegal deployment”
Mr. Byeong-seung Choi, a laid-off in-house subcontract worker of Hyundai Motors
Hyundai Motors, though they say they respect Supreme Court’s ruling, do not admit illegal deployment of irregular workers. They still restrict Supreme Court’s illegal deployment ruling to an individual Byeong-seung Choi and claim the case is not over since ruling to their motion to Constitutional Court is pending. That’s not right.
The lawsuit’s main issue was about whether decision by Ministry of Labor (MoL) in year 2004 that all 9234 processes in factories in Ulsan and Asan/Jeonju were illegal deployment was right or wrong. That’s because we were laid-off while demanding to be regular workers according to MoL’s decision on illegal deployment. To contest the legitimacy of layoff, it is inevitable to judge if it was illegal deployment or not. During the last 7 years, we had submitted thousands of written evidences, pictures and video recordings to prove it had been illegal deployment. Based on these evidences, Supreme Court ruled that Hyundai Motors really had employed irregular workers illegally.
Supreme Court’s decisions took place two times, in year 2010 and in year 2012. I would say it is firmly established as court’s precedence now. It is a legal common sense that Supreme Court’s precedences are applied to similar cases in similar industry.
But, Hyundai Motors is ignoring this common sense and that’s why the illegal deployment issue has not been settled yet. Hyundai Motors should respect the intention of Supreme Court’s ruling and turn all in-house subcontract irregular workers to regular workers.
“We worry about arbitrary interpretation of Court’s ruling”
Manager Mr. Seong-ho Han, Hyundai Motors Public Relations Team
We are well aware of the social repurcussion Hyundai Motors in-house subcontractor problem is causing. Despite the seriousness of the issue, we are wary of too lax over-interpretation of it. In particular, claims that arbitrarily exaggerating or inferring Mr. Byeong-seung Choi’s Supreme Court ruling and arguing that it should be extended to all in-house subcontractors make the problem solving all the more difficult.
Recently, Ulsan Regional Court ruled that ‘Supreme Court’s ruling for single person should be confined to that person only’. It’s the court’s concerned viewpoint that law should not be arbitrarily over-interpretation.’ Except for Mr. Byeong-seung, illegal deployment issue has not been cleared for in-house subcontract workers yet. That’s why we should wait for the result of class action lawsuit for employment status recognition case pending in Seoul Regional Court now.
Under this circumstance, Hyundai Motors embracingly announced our position on regularization of in-house subcontractors and improvement of their conditions. We also made it clear that we would uphold the court’s ruling on the class action lawsuit. Company’s sincere effort to solve the problem should not be tarnished by unrealistic claims to regularise all subcontractor workers.
Also, in-house subcontractor problem is an issue that should be considered in terms of employment flexibility that is directly related to company’s survival. Therefore, direct talk between company and workers is the most reasonable way to solve the problem.
“Company should display sweeping change, union should engage in both talk and negotiation”
Mr. Seong-tae Kim, National Assembly member of Saenuri party
Hyundai Motors in-house subcontractor problem including Mr. Byeong-seung Choi is not a new one. But, because even the Supreme Court ruled on this, it should be resolved at all cost. As revealed in the inspection of national administration in National Assembly Environment and Labor Subcommittee, Saenuri party’s point of view on in-house subcontractor problem has changed. On 15th last month, we visited Ulsan iron tower and heard the voice of sit-in people. We realised once again that the issue is extremely serious. Saenuri party is approaching this issue very sincerely to resolve it any cost.
Therefore, we are pressing hard the MoEL specifically on this issue to come up with a solution for it. Minister of Employment and Labor, Chae-pil Lee went to Ulsan a few days ago and asked Hyundai Motors for earlier regularisation of them and expansion of the scale than what they had proposed. That’s what I emphasised to him too.
Hyundai Motors also promised to reinstate Mr. Byeong-seung Choi. Compred to before, it is obviously an improved plan. But, Mr. Choi is not coming down from the tower arguing all his colleagues should be reinstated at once. Considering the number of people involved, company’s stance deserves some understanding since it is so massive. I hope Mr. Byeong-seung Choi and HMIW branch to employe all tactics flexibly including talk, negotiation and fight. We can’t support ‘All or Nothing’ approach. We expect improved agreement from further negotiations between them.
“Hyundai Motors, they should change voluntarily. Or they will be forced to change”
Ms. Soo-mi Eun, National Assembly member of Democratic Unification Party
The essence of Hyundai Motors issue is that they are violating the core principle of countries ruled by law that order of law should be applied equally to all members of a society. This is why people are so angry about them. As a member of National Assembly that makes law, I can’t throw away bitterness on this. A chaebol is avoiding law and order, the basic principle of social administration, and insisting to be an exception of it. So, Hyundai Motors issue is not just an ordinary worker-company issue but an issue of establishing a social order that runs our society through law and court’s order. For the recovery of order, Hyundai Motors should act proactively on solving the irregular workers’ problem.
If court’s ruling on employment status recognition lawsuit 1940 in-house subcontractor workers sued at Seoul Regional Court in Nov. 2010 comes out soon and politicians who promised to solve the problem after the presidential election execute plans they put on position, Hyundai Motors problem will be solved through external interruption. This is worrisome because it can represent a wrong precedence even if it solves the problem. The best fashion this issue can be resolved is to implement court’s order first and then to setup a concrete plan afterwards through direct talks between workers and company. But, we don’t see any sincerity from Hyundai Motors to solve the problem. Hyundai Motors should realise the stakes they incur and should show wholehearted efforts to solve the problem. Or, it would be solved through external forces even though it means mounting social expenses.