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No pay for Hyundai full time unionists

The full enforcement of the time-off system, which is a salary cap for full-time unionists, might hit a wall as Hyundai Motor said Wednesday that it did not pay the salaries of any of its 233 full-time unionists last month.

The company is to provide pay to 90 of them.

The conflict is also eminent in other units of the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which still defy the system that will come into effect in all workplaces in July after the two-year grace period.

The nation’s No. 1 automaker said that it did not pay any fulltime unionists on May 4, their payday. It said that the union has not designated the limited number of full-time unionists subject to the time-off plan, thus making it impossible to know whom to pay.

The time-off scheme aims to reduce paid time off for each fulltime union worker to 1,000 hours a year and limit the maximum number of such employees to 24 per company. The system will be applied to larger firms hiring 15,000 employees or more from July. Next year, the limit will be further lowered to 16.

Hyundai Motor’s union, the largest in the country, had to trim more than 200 full-time unionists since only 24 could be supported by management.

However, to minimize the aftereffect of the dramatic cutoff, management and unionists agreed to hold the number at 90. Still, unionists said they have yet managed to select the 90 people to be paid. Pay for the full-time unionists who will not be on the payroll must be funded with union membership fees on an hourly basis.

The amount of salary halted is thought to be around 600 million won ($560,000). “We will not pay the money until we receive the list of unionists to be paid under the time-off plan,” a Hyundai spokesman said.

Representatives of regional union branches have agreed to strike or protest against the enforcement of the time-off system but have not yet drawn out the details. Many other KCTU members are reportedly considering following Hyundai’s lead.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said Thursday that the number of full-time unionists has shrunk more among the hawkish KCTU than among the milder Federation of Korean Trade Union members, showing the KCTU has been more flexible toward the new scheme.

According to the report, 254 or 40.3 percent of 630 member workplaces under the KCTU have trimmed their number of full-time unionists. Another 273 have agreed to maintain their numbers and 16.3 percent have had increased theirs.

However, in the FKTU, 29.4 percent of member unions have reduced their number of full-time unionists, while 45.6 percent have showed no change.

“The time-off system is beneficial to small- or mid-sized companies that could not afford one or two full-time leaders. But large unions may have to slim their number of full-timers,” a ministry official said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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