Hyundai union threatens stoppages after worker self-immolation

SEOUL Jan 9 (Reuters) – The labour union of Hyundai Motor has threatened to suspend all engine output in the company’s biggest production base from Tuesday, saying an employee set himself on fire to protest the company’s alleged “suppression” of unionised workers.

The incident indicates labour issues remain a potential vulnerability for the strongly performing South Korean carmaker, although it avoided strikes for a third year in a row last year.

The worker and union member with the surname Shin was found in flames at a Hyundai engine plant in the southeastern city of Ulsan at around noon on Sunday, and is currently in critical condition at a hospital in nearby Busan, Hyundai’s union said in a statement.

The union said in a separate statement that a factory manager had tried to “unfairly control” Shin after he reported problems with engine quality to management, citing files found on his computer.

“Hyundai’s management has not abandoned its outdated labour management policy, causing frequent conflicts with labour,” the union said.

The union warned that it would suspend engine output throughout Hyundai’s complex in Ulsan and refuse overtime and weekend work from Tuesday should the company fail to accept demand including preventing the repeat of incidents of alleged suppression or excessive monitoring.

A company spokesman denied any improper conduct in the treatment of unionised workers.

Employees at the plant where Shin worked already suspended production after the incident.

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