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[Newsmaker] Wi-Fi use latest hot spot of tension at Hyundai Motor

The latest bone of contention between the labor union and management at Hyundai Motor was unforeseen in a country that boasts one of the highest internet penetration rates -- Wi-Fi use.

On Tuesday, the automaker changed its decision to allow employees to use Wi-Fi at its manufacturing plant in Ulsan, and placed restrictions on use only during meal times and break hours. 

Hyundai Motor workers are seen at the automaker’s Ulsan plant. Hyundai Motor
Hyundai Motor workers are seen at the automaker’s Ulsan plant. Hyundai Motor

The decision was taken after criticism that employees spent a lot of their time surfing the internet or watching YouTube videos on their smartphones during their shift. The automaker cited work efficiency and safety concerns for the change.

The carmaker had gone back and forth on its Wi-Fi use restriction several times just this month. On Dec. 9, it restricted the use of Wi-Fi to fixed hours, but had to lift it in two days due to strong protest from the labor union. Workers refused to work extra hours until the restriction was removed.

Unionized workers argued that restriction on use of Wi-Fi is a violation of a collective agreement reached with the management in 2011 and 2016. They also said that they cannot abide by the company’s unilateral and coercive rule which ignores their rights at the workplace.

But the company said that the two sides never agreed on 24-hour-use at its plants, adding that use of Wi-Fi during work hours is inappropriate considering the sensitivity of the work type.

The labor union is reportedly planning to hold a meeting to decide on countermeasures.

By Kim Da-sol (