Posted : 2017-03-31 15:55
Updated : 2017-03-31 18:35

Hyundai union asks for job security against AI

By Park Jae-hyuk

As far as job security is concerned, Hyundai Motor is touted as the best place for workers as the automaker's militant trade union safeguards them against any attempts by management to cut payrolls.

However, they seem not to be content with the status quo as the union is asking the company to guarantee that their jobs will be safe even after the full-fledged introduction of robotic production, possibly controlled by artificial intelligence (AI).

According to industry officials Wednesday the union has recently offered to negotiate with the company over the agenda this year.

"Considerable parts of the car industry have been outsourced and modularized so far," the union wrote in a newsletter to members. "As our job security is expected to severely worsen due to industrial development, we have decided to demand management take appropriate measures."

Experts admit industrial development, especially the growth of the eco-friendly electric car market, will result in a sharp reduction in manufacturing jobs in the automotive industry.

For instance, a Tesla factory in California lacks conveyor belts and is mainly operated by robots, because electric cars are more easily manufactured with fewer components compared to gasoline models. The U.S. carmaker is known to hire the minimum number of workers for the factory.

Against this backdrop, Hyundai's union appears to seeking a promise that the company will not allow robots to take over well-paying jobs ― their average annual salary was 96 million won ($86,000) in 2015 ― the latest data available.

And as usual, the company cannot turn a deaf ear to the demands of the union, which is notorious for frequent walkouts, no matter how strange they are.

Earlier this month, labor and management established a 16-member-committee to discuss the matter. The union at that time said it will thoroughly check whether the job security of workers will actually be threatened by eco-friendly cars. The committee members visited factories manufacturing eco-friendly vehicles as well.

However, the company criticized the union for its lack of deep consideration on the new technology.

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution is merely a plausible excuse," a Hyundai Motor spokesman said. "The union has always asked the company for perfect job security, which we can hardly accept."

Plus, the union has requested the company to extend the retirement age from 60 to 64 and to raise the base salary by 7 percent. The union also said it wants to retain the family succession of employment despite a corrective order from the government.

Critics said the union should change its attitude, pointing out the negative public sentiment toward it at a time when the unemployment rate continues to rise. They also said the union's unreasonable demands are prompting the company to move its manufacturing plants to other countries.

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