Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia company unions vote to industrialize: move means membership in large scale groups, more leverage
The company-based labor unions of Hyundai Motors Corp., GM Daewoo Auto & Technology, and Kia Motors, known as some of the strongest company-wide unions in South Korea, chose to be absorbed into some of the nation’s larger industrial unions.
The Federation of Korean Metal Workers Trade Unions, under the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, said that out of 39,966 unionized workers at Hyundai Motor participating in voting yesterday, 71.5 percent supported becoming part of the federation, one of Korea’s largest industrialized unions. To transition into an industrialized union, more than two-thirds of unionized workers must back the action.
Along with the Hyundai Motors Corp. union, the 9,000-member union of GM Daewoo and 10,000-strong union of Kia Motors also voted to become part of industrialized unions. Other unions, such as those at Doowon Precision Mechanics, Jinkwang ENC, and Daewoo Automobile Sales followed suit. Under the current wave of support, the Federation of Korean Metal Workers Trade Unions has swelled to more than 100,000 members.
“The move is meaningful because it has paved the way for the unions to strengthen their alliance in resolving labor problems beyond company walls, and in narrowing the gap between haves and have-nots,” said Lee Soo-bong, a spokesman at the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions.
However, Lee Dong-ung, senior vice president of the Korea Employers Federation, raised concern that the move may spark harsher labor-management relations. “Damages will occur due to repetitive negotiations, strikes, and other work stoppages,” Lee said.
Labor circles expect the move to prompt other company-based labor unions to pick up speed in switching over to an industrialized union.
Park Yoo-sun, planning director of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, said, “By October or November this year, more agreements will be made by confederations to switch to an industrialized union.”
By 2008, the industrialized unions will be integrated into four to five bigger industrialized unions, Park said.
The move is expected to bring big changes to labor negotiations between union and company management, allowing each labor union to raise questions about the industry’s overall problems. In addition, temporary workers, who have not been allowed membership in most company-wide labor unions, will be accorded the rights of union members.