Hyundai Motor unionists are going on a strike. Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor trade union

Hyundai Motor’s trade union should not go on strike

When I was a university student, I ardently supported the labor activists, who urged the country’s large-sized conglomerates to care more about the rights of workers.

Some of my friends even left the school to work at factories and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the umbrella labor union established in the 1990s.

Back then, a friend of mine working at the KCTU was proud of his job although his monthly salary was less than 1 million won ($8,700).

He tended to say, “For my salary, so many poor workers contribute. I should be thankful to them.” He got married to a labor activist who joined her firm after graduating from high school.

Now, I think the KCTU is not what it used to be. For me, it looks like an interest group, which comes up with excessive demands for its members without regard to the overall rights of workers.

Earlier this month, the country’s largest labor group pushed ahead with a large-scale illegal rally in downtown Seoul despite the concerns over the virus pandemic.

My friend, who worked for the KCTU and now teaches students at a private institution in southern Seoul, is not proud of the organization any longer. Neither do I.

The labor union of Hyundai Motor, which is a member of the KCTU, seems to be one of the examples demonstrating why my friend and I changed our thoughts.

Last week, union members of the country’s largest automaker voted in favor of a strike as the management did not accept their requests.

What they ask for is for Hyundai Motor to offer 30 percent of its net profits as a bonus and extend the retirement age from 60 to 64.

These requests appear to be way too much in consideration of the fact that the average annual salary of Hyundai workers was more than 95 million won ($83,000) last year.

Included in benefits are free medical checks, overseas training programs, and childcare centers. Hyundai offers low-interest loans for employees who purchase homes.

When their children enter university, the company is supposed to provide financial aides covering the tuition, which amounts to around $10,000 a year.

They can purchase a Hyundai vehicle at a discounted price every other year. For those who worked for Hyundai longer than 25 years, the discount rate is up to 30 percent.

Against this backdrop, what they want is to get more money from the company now and extend their retirement age so that they will be able to enjoy all the benefits as long as possible.

Toward that end, they almost always go on a strike every year, although the management could reach a settlement in 2019 and 2020 without any labor disputes _ a very rare case.

But they hardly care about the welfare and salary of contracted workers or irregular employees at Hyundai factories. They, not the well-paid Hyundai unionists, are the ones who should be protected.

Such U.S. automakers as Ford and General Motors lost their competitiveness for some reasons, and one of them is the excessive demands of their trade union.

I am concerned that Hyundai and its sister company Kia follow suit of the U.S. outfits due to the very selfish and militant trade unions, which some even say are pathetic.