A homeless person fixes his eyes on a middle-aged lady who looks wealthy wearing a luxurious-looking coat and boots. He barges in on her, soliciting money in quite an intimidating pose.
Korean news outlets tend to depict the trade union of the nation’s top carmaker Hyundai Motor as the homeless, which carries out unlawful activities dubbed ``aggressive panhandling.’’
In other words, Hyundai unionists are more often than not portrayed as a group of shameless beggars who aggressively and seamlessly attempt to take the profits out of the profitable company.
Are they really so bad? Well, we are required to take a closer examination before reaching such an easy conclusion.
On Monday, Hyundai’s union notified the management of a set of requests for the annual pay negotiations this year, which the company claims are way too much for it to accept.
Included in the demand list are a remuneration raise of 8.4 percent on average, 30 percent of net profits in bonus, an extension of the retirement age by a year and the cancellation of the so-called ``time-off’’ system.
``The average annual salaries have jumped from 68 million won in 2008 to 75 million won in 2009, 80 million won in 2010 and 89 million won last year,’’ a Hyundai official said.
``In the case we accepted all the conditions asked by the union, we would have to give well above 100 million won per employee this year.’’
In particular, the company took issue with the time-off system, which bans the number of full-time paid unionists specified in the relevant laws.
Under the regulation, the Hyundai union more than halved the number of full-timers last year from 237 to 111 and just 26 of them are paid by the firm while union dues cover the remaining 85.
``The time-off format is enforced under the relevant law. It is inappropriate to discuss the stipulation of the law,’’ the Hyundai official said.
The trade union seems unhappy with such claims since they have been cooperative without staging strikes for three years in a row since 2009, following 14 consecutive years of walkouts.
``In consideration of our long working hours, you would not say that we are trying to get more than we deserve. Plus, our basic salary is so low that we have no choice but to ask for bonuses like 30 percent of profits,’’ Hyundai union’s spokesman Kwon O-il said.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor said late last year that most of Korea’s automakers were found to make their workforce work long above the standard 50 hours a week.
Some Hyundai employees worked more than 64 hours a week, the longest among those surveyed, the ministry said.
With regards to the time-off scheme, Kwon contends that his union is not blameworthy.
``On top of slashing the number of paid full-timers, the company filed a suit to take back all support such as vehicles and even telephones in union offices,’’ Kwon said.
``We had to raise the issue because in effect, we cannot do our jobs properly as union leaders under the pay-off system. The association of unions are set to make various efforts to nullify the time-off policy and we are taking part in the campaign.’’
When contacted, Hyundai Motor said that the firm has to retrieve all support in line with the instructions from the government.