By on February 24, 2010

If you were a company at time of recession, belt-tightening and countries on the verge of bankruptcy, you’d think that registering record profits and growing global market share at times like these would keep everyone at your company happy, right? Wrong. Members of Hyundai Motor’s union are angry. Livid. Up in arms. And as students of Asian cultures will confirm, Koreans can get, shall we say, a bit hot and bothered about causes close to their hearts.

Koreatimes reports that despite pleas from management for peaceful resolutions, their union has demanded that Hyundai stop expanding overseas and guarantee job security at home – or else.

“Job security for our members should be guaranteed by reaffirming the role of domestic factories as the basis for production,” the union declared in its 11-point list of demands. Seems building those factories abroad isn’t going down too well in South Korea. Other points which the union stipulated were: protection of the union, its activities left to its own discretion and a better division of profits. Oh, and higher wages, better benefits, and the list of usual suspects.

Hyundai Motors CEO, Chung Mong-Koo, is at odds with the unions, because he firmly believes that Hyundai has to go global in order to expand. Wages rising in South Korea, and the newfound strength of the Won reaffirm his plan. No doubt the unions will have something to say on that.

The Koreatimes points out (rather needlessly to Chung Mong-Koo who is already beefing up his protective detail) that Hyundai’s union “is notorious for frequent strikes. Its union is a leading member of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the more militant of the nation’s two umbrella groups.” And when they say militant, they mean militant.

The article did mention that during the global financial crisis last year, the unions did show restraint in striking (or as the Koreatimes puts it “collective action”) but that good will will only last so long.

PS: Just to demonstrate that we have a handle on things: “Hyundai Motor will recall 47,000 of its new Sonata sedans to fix faulty door latches, seeking to avoid the damaging criticism Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp faces for its handling of a series of safety problems,” says Reuters. Yawn. Must be recall fatigue.

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18 Comments on “Piece-Loving Unions Harrass Hyundai...”


  • avatar
    RangerM

    The best way to achieve job security I ever heard of is called “doing your job better than anyone else”.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    If only is was that easy…Outsourcing disproves that…Work for peanuts and you can keep your job…Cut your benefits and keep your job…Abolish safety standards and we’ll keep our factories in America…Ban law suits against faulty products and we’ll let you work for peanuts…God Bless the Conservatives!!!

    • 0 avatar
      RangerM

      If you believe your job consists of merely “insert Part A into Slot B”, then you’re right. If your mantra is “not my job”, you’re also right.

      If you read the article, the company wasn’t trying to take anything away from anyone (not wages, not benefits, not safety procedures); it was merely trying to make the company more successful (globally).

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Carpenter

      A pox on both the houses of the conservatives and the liberals, if you ask me.

      But back to cars and Hyundai specifically.

      Hyundai just needs to continue doing what they are doing and stay up on that balance bar.

      Eventually, after natural growth in non-South Korean markets (including new factories), and with non-hiring at South Korean plants (meaning attrition due to age), things will settle down.

      As a workforce gets older, they get less militant.

      But if I were Chung Mong-Koo, I’d have a secret ban on hiring one single soul (sorry, bad pun) for South Korean factories.

      It’s not like the #5 automaker in the world can manage with a couple of massive plants on one island, anyway. The unionists are (gee what a surprise here!) being totally irrational and selfish.

      Interestingly, the Hyundai and Ssangyong unions are far more militant (as mentioned, in a literal sense) than those at Hyundai’s part-owned Kia, GMDaewoo or Renault-Samsung.

      Conversely, Hyundai has been the most successful of the automakers there and Ssangyong, least.

      But the South Korean unions at Hyundai (or more specifically the workers) should wake up and smell the coffee – look across the pond and see how their “brothers” have done an epic fail in the USA and lost virtually most of the jobs – never to be seen again.

      Those fools who refuse to learn from history (and other’s mistakes) are bound to repeat them.

      Hyundai shouldn’t suffer fools. I know that Alabama would be more than happy to have the Hyundai global HQ and additional factories.

      Perhaps a stick would be more effective than a carrot for the South Korean unions? Like in the story about the farmer bashing the obstinant donkey upside the head with the 2×4, and the city slicker runs over and asks “why’d you do that?!” Farmer replies in a slow drawl, “well, first, you have to get his attention.”

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      +1 Mr Carpenter

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    South Korea is going on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signing spree. Which actually is a good thing for the country, but some workers are inevitably going to get displaced.

    An interesting point is that the KORUS FTA (Republic of Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement) is largely centered around the automotive industry, and its very pro-American. S. Korea has to even change how it regulates emissions to allow for larger displacement US cars (the tax based on discplacement has to be modified). The goal is that the US wants American-made Hyundai’s and GM-Daewoos to displace Korean-made Hyundai/Kia and Daewoos. The FTA is suppose to create 240,000 new American jobs.

    Which is the reason why Korean unions are pissed…

    The UAW is also scared of it as well because they fear more imports for South Korea, and most American-made Hyundais will likely be made from non-union factories. But in reality, while it may not directly benefit the UAW, it will unquestionably benefit suppliers and the US automotive industry.

    http://www.uaw.org/solidarity/07/0807/feature12.php

    Obama, predictably, is blocking it, even though its been signed by pretty much all interested parties, on behalf of the UAW because they are seeking more to guarantee union jobs. As it stands now, the FTA agreement is very pro-US, it even allows the US to ‘snapback’ and apply tariffs and sanctions against S. Korea if they feel they are unfair trading practices going on.

    http://www.heritage.org/Research/tradeandeconomicfreedom/wm2485.cfm

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703444804575072202258389956.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    That is one tasty looking cake.

    Hyundai will do what they think is necessary to increase their global presence. Their Korean unions won’t be able to stop expansion in foreign countries no matter what they say or do. I’m guessing if not now then shortly Hyundai’s foreign market sales will exceed the home market sales and the Korean union can go on strike for as long as they want but it will have zero effect on Hyundai’s foreign production. Sounds to me like the Korean union is setting themselves up to be taught a harsh lesson in global economics.

  • avatar
    Some Guy

    I’m hungry now too.

    This all sounds familiar. Back when the Detroit Three were enjoying unprecedented profits and growth, unions for American manufacturers started complaining about jobs moving away from the heartland.

    It seems that ALL car companies (if not all corporations) live on similar boom/bust cycles. Give Hyundai a few dozen more years and they will be sitting in shambles as well due to worker demands…

  • avatar
    Russell

    Korean Unions acts like a mob thugs. These Hyundai workers make a lot of money. Yet, they are very militant, violent, and pretty asinine bunch. It is Hyundai’s interest to expand to other countries as fast as it can. Hyundai must unravel its militant communistic union member “workers.”

    Hyundai has to expand to over sea to counter balance these mobs.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Trouble is, Russell, that a lot of countries and businesses with brains in leadership (and wisdom of how the world works) are looking at the United States as a whole and wondering “hmmm, do I want to set up a business in a country which is run like the Chicago mob writ large”? (Or like “venezuela north”?)

    AKA Obama’s crew: “Hi Mr Toyoda, nice business you’ve got there, wouldn’t want something to happen to it….”

    When states are left to their own devices, jobs and investment flow in. Hyundai Alabama is one such example.

    Little wonder Hyundai is considering its next plant for Canada, eh?

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    I have never bought a Hyundai , but if I ever do buy one , it will not be one built outside Korea.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    You can’t blame the Korean workers – how can they possibly compete with low wage countries like Alabama? +

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