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Precarious workers, known in the United States as temporary or contract workers, at the Hyundai Motor Company in Ulsan, South Korea, have been engaged in a sit-in strike since Nov. 15 when the subcontractor who employed them announced the business was closing and Hyundai was terminating the contract. Hyundai insisted that it would it not directly hire the workers, and in addition, the workers would only be rehired by the new subcontracting company if they withdrew their membership in the union. The strike began when company thugs attacked protesting workers and prevented them from going to their workplace.
The UAW fully supports the strike by Hyundai precarious workers and plans to show solidarity for the courageous workers through a peaceful demonstration at the Hyundai America Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Dec. 6 at 4 p.m.
Plagued by unfair dismissals and miserably low wages, precarious workers are now shutting down assembly lines to voice their discontent. The occupation of a seat-making plant has resulted in losses by the company totaling $173 million as of Dec. 2. Mainly affected is production of the recently unveiled Hyundai Accent. Countless pre-orders on this new sub-compact vehicle have now been left unfilled.
Over one-fifth of Hyundai workers are hired on a temporary basis, often by false subcontractors in order to circumvent the higher pay scales and benefits enjoyed by those directly contracted by Hyundai. A July 22 ruling by the Supreme Court of Korea deemed this practice illegal, thereby mandating that precarious workers be offered secure positions through permanent contracts.
Hyundai has refused to comply with this decision, and the UAW now seeks to remind South Korea’s most profitable automaker that labor standards are not open to conjecture.
“Precarious workers should be treated the in the same manner and have the full rights of regular Hyundai workers. The UAW and our sister unions around the globe will be standing with these workers until Hyundai stops the violence and repression of these workers and recognizes them as regular Hyundai workers,” said UAW President Bob King. King will be traveling to Korea next week to show solidarity with the workers’ struggle.
“Hyundai is a very successful, profitable company and it is a moral outrage that instead of including workers in the success of the company, they are keeping more than 8,000 workers at poverty level wages and in complete uncertainty for themselves and their families. We join the Korean Metal Workers Union in demanding that Hyundai immediately hire these workers as full-time Hyundai employees and ask that all people of conscience join us in this demand,” King added.
Since the July ruling, precarious workers have joined the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) in large numbers in a push to demand ethical treatment. As of Dec. 1 the powerful labor organization has joined the strike of precarious workers, putting increased pressure on the company to reform its practices.
Monday’s demonstration will feature a speech on the importance of global solidarity by UAW President Bob King, and a vigil to show support for Korean workers.
Who: UAW and community members in solidarity with precarious workers in Korea
What: Demonstration in support of Hyundai temporary workers on strike in Korea
Where: Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc., 6800 Geddes Road, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48198
When: Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, at 4 p.m.