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South Korea – Hyundai workers tied to pylon over temporary staffing

26 October 2012

Two former employees of the auto manufacturer Hyundai have climbed up a pylon in protest over the firm’s temporary staffing practices. The pair have tied themselves to the nearly 50 metre high electrical structures and said on Thursday they will only come down unless Hyundai hires thousands of temporary workers on a full-time basis.   

The protestors, Choi Byung-Seung and Chun Ui-Bong, have staged their protest near one of the automaker’s plants in Ulsan, a city in the southeastern region of the country. 

“We've been sleeping, eating and peeing up here since then,” said Choi to the news agency AFP on Thursday. “We will stay here until our demands that all temporary workers are given full-time status are met.”

Choi said he had for years tried to settle the matter in court and complained to politicians. He said “drastic steps” are now needed to achieve his demand. He added the two would stay on their posts for months if necessary.

The staffing market in South Korea has grown strongly in recent years and Staffing Industry Analysts estimates that it is one of the largest markets in Asia with 2011 annual revenue of €1.3 billion. CIETT estimated that there are 1,400 staffing agencies in operation in Korea providing 83,775 temporary workers on a FTE annual basis in 2009.

Hyundai is the fifth-largest car maker in the world and media reports claim the firm hires around 7,000 temporary workers who often receive lower pay and have fewer rights than permanent workers. The firm recently pledged to hire 3,000 temporary workers on a permanent basis by 2016, following pressure from the Labour Ministry.

Hyundai has agreed to meet union leaders to discuss the issue and called the actions “regrettable”. 

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