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Hyundai Heavy targets early retirement objectors

Concerns over labor conflicts are rising again at Hyundai Heavy Industries as the shipbuilder reportedly tried to penalize those who refused to take the latest early retirement program, the firm’s voluntary workforce cut plan.

The HHI branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, the nation’s biggest umbrella union, claimed that a number of its members working for the shipbuilder were subjected to unreasonable demands by the management since they rejected the voluntary retirement scheme, which it believes is an apparent attempt to force them to leave the company.

“We heard that Hyundai Heavy management has been harassing workers who rejected the ERP through diverse ways,’’ a KMWU member said.

The union claimed the company forced targeted workers to resolve late payments by vendors. When the company was unsatisfied with their performance, the workers were listed for a disciplinary hearing, which could lead to their sacking.

“Some of the targeted workers were asked to undergo training programs for a job transfer on an unrealistic schedule,’’ the union member said.

An unidentified Hyundai Heavy employee who refused ERP was said to have taken a monthlong training program to improve performance. The person was ordered to submit a performance improvement plan within two weeks in the middle of the training. After completing the training session, the company, however, asked the employee to enroll into another training program without any explanation.

The country’s labor activists claimed that the developments at Hyundai Heavy demonstrate ways in which the government’s plans to ease the requirements for dismissing low-performance employees can be abused.

They said the corporate performance improvement programs have a risk of being misused as tools for pressuring employees.

While the government denied the claims, the nation’s top court previously ruled that performance improvement programs could not be considered unfair to the employees in a 2009 case over Hyundai Motor’s decision to penalize three workers.

By Suk Gee-hyun (