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80 Percent of Hyundai Motor New Recruits Are Former Subcontracted Workers
By Lee Young-kyung
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Early this year, Hyundai Motor has announced that it would extend an open invitation to recruit workers on the manufacturing side. It has been 8 years since the company has formally recruited manufacturing workers.

Hyundai Motor explained that this open recruiting would help resolve the youth unemployment issue and improve the company's extended work hour problems.

The level of employee benefits at Hyundai Motor is considered as one of the best in Korea and a total of 60,000 have submitted applications during the job opening period between April and May. Hyundai Motor has announced late last month that 246 have been selected.

However, it turns out that 196 or 80 percent of the total new recruits are actually the workers who have been working at Hyundai Motor under subcontract arrangements.

The labor claims that these subcontracted workers have been illegally dispatched and hence are eligible to be hired as regular workers anyway: it is criticizing Hyundai Motor that the open recruitment was in name only and the company used it as a 'shortcut' to handle the existing issue.

Hyundai Motor Irregular Workers' Branch of the Korea Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) confirmed on July 19 that many of these new recruits had worked for the company for 7 to 12 years, or at least 2 years.

Since the Supreme Court has ruled subcontracting within Hyundai Motor as illegal dispatching, these workers were already eligible for regular worker status.

If they are turned into regular workers, the company should pay the disadvantage in wage suffered over the period of subcontracting: however, if they become new recruits, the previous employment years are written off.

Hyundai Motor Irregular Workers' Branch estimates that the difference in wage and bonus between the regular and subcontracted workers can be as much as 30 million won per annum.

An official from the branch critically remarked, "It is an 'evasion of law' to mitigate its legal liabilities for unlawful dispatching, taking advantage of 60,000 unemployed youth who were desperate to get a job."

On February 23, when the Supreme Court upheld its ruling that the subcontracted workers who have worked for 2 or more years at Hyundai Motor should be regarded as directly hired by the company, KMWU members are flying balloons in front of the Supreme Court building, welcoming the decision. Yonhap News

The branch has all along been against this type of recruiting: even though subcontracted workers may think it is a good deal to be recruited as a regular worker, it is in fact nothing but a device to weaken the union and maintain the subcontracting scheme within the company.

An official from the KMWU Hyundai Motor Branch said, "Most of the workers who benefited from this kind of recruitment were family members or relatives of the subcontracting companies' owners; for regular recruitment, a recommendation by the heads of these companies were required.

As a result, workers withdrew from the union in large numbers." Oh Min-kyu, a policy committee member of the Korean Committee of Irregular Workers' Union, commented, "It is a way of union oppression, preventing workers from getting union membership."

Jeom-kyu Park, an executive member of Network for a World without Irregular Workers said, "Hyundai Motor has replaced retiring employees with subcontracting instead of new recruitment." Park added, "It is a 'scam' to cheat people that they organize this new recruitment nominally to create jobs but in reality to hire its former subcontracted workers."

There is also a concern that with these new recruits, as many subcontracted workers may lose their jobs. Hyundai Motor changes the employment status of subcontracted workers with less than 2-year service into temporary direct employment.

However, out of 1,485 eligible persons, 299 are excluded under such pretext as process eliminated. The Hyundai Motor Irregular Workers' Branch official argued, "The new recruitment is not an increase in employment: it is nothing but firing and replacing the subcontracted workers."

The branch now demands that all the subcontracted workers be turned into regular workers, according to the Supreme Court ruling. Around 1,900 out of 8,000 or so subcontracted workers at Hyundai Motor have filed a lawsuit against the company for recognition of employment status, so that they can be recognized as regular employees.

Oh said, "The new recruitment happens at the cost of irregular workers and their sufferings. Is this the right way to turn employment regular? The Supreme Court already has ruled it as illegal dispatch: it is only right that these workers should gain regular employee status."

With regard to this issue, a Hyundai Motor person argued, "Is it so wrong to hire subcontracted workers as new recruits, when there is a dispute about illegal dispatching?" He added, "We have given high scores for the work experience in the same industry and performance abilities on site--that is why the subcontracted workers had favorable results."

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