Wednesday, December 09, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Wildcat strikes of Czech workers in Hyundai and Dymos get massive attention Dec 9 2009

Around 20 workers left the welding shop in Hyundai Motor Manufacturing
Czech in Nošovice near Frýdek-Místek (Czech Republic) during their shift
on Tuesday 1st of December 2009. One day later there was an hourly wildcat
strike in assembly hall at the same company. On 3rd December workers in
Huyndai subcontactor Dymos organised an hourly work stoppage too. On 7th
December the union called a "strike emergency" (a symbolic pre-strike
measure to warn the management that unless they start negotiations a real
strike action will be called) in Hyundai.

We informed about these strikes on our website on 3rd of December. In this
article we try to sum up what actually happened, what positive and
negative results we can see so far and how other workers can help.

„The other day my wife came home, locked herself in a room and cried. When
I came to her and asked what had happened, she told me little by little
how things work there and what they have to endure. She's been bottling it
up inside her heroically for almost 7 months. I can't understand how
something like this is possible in our country. When I read statements of
Petr Vaňek (HMMC spokesman) I feel like I'm about to vomit.
Chicanery, humiliation, threats = this is where Mr Rakovský and Mr
Vaněk are heading to." Reader's comment on newspaper website

Wildcat strike in Hyundai on 2nd December

Around 400 workers stood up against obligatory overtimes, selective annual
company bonuses, and workplace harassment. Workers were planning to stop
production since the morning. When the overtime was supposed to begin,
workers on one of the lines in the hall stopped production, and in a few
minutes all the other lines joined in. The workers then assembled in the
canteen. The management told them to choose a representative who would
negotiate on their behalf, and they rejected this idea. They demanded the
management to come to them and talk in front of everyone. A person from
Korean management along with the shift supervisor came to listen to their
demands. After an hour of negotiations the workers agreed to complete the
shift and continue negotiating within next days. They were promised that
the overtimes on Thursday would be cancelled and the hour they spent
striking would be paid.

Wildcat strike in Dymos on 3rd December and management reaction

On Wednesday, December 3rd, one shift (approximately 100 workers) also
went on an hourly wildcat strike in Dymos (also in Nošovice, see the
picture, which is a subcontracting
company for Hyundai also with Korean management. Reasons included
overtimes, overexertion of workers and bad working conditions. Management
of Hyundai is behaving defensively so far and trying to quieten the whole
issue in mass media. On the other hand, management of Dymos reacted very
quickly. According to information published on the Internet, on 4th
December the management told the morning shift which had been on strike a
day ago that the workers will loose all the bonuses and there will be a
wage freeze.

"Strike emergency" since 7th December - Unions trying to gain control over
further development

The strike in Hyundai was organized without official involvement of the
union (and work council) so that the union could not be accused of illegal
action. There were some posts on the workers' discussion forum encouraging
them to quickly join the union in order to gain strength. The union has
called a "strike emergency" on Monday, December 7th.

A possible solution was drafted by a union representative on the union's
discussion forum. He writes that the employees who took part in the strike
will not be punished and urges that now "the employees have to distance
themselves from all activities similar to what happened on Wednesday!!!
You can strike only afterwards if there is no deal and no compromise with
the management!!! Not sooner!!! It would be illegal and the negotiations
would fail!!! Plus one technical info: 500 Czech crowns* in cash instead
of a Christmas box of chocolate for every union member, who paid his union
fee in November!! :-)"
* cca. 19 Euro

Positive results so far

1) Self-organisation of the action. Workers' mobilization and their own
action could encourage other workers, not only in Czech.
2) Information channel. The workers had established a public online forum
long before they went on strike. This forum along with comments on media
websites has become a space where they share information and explain their
situation and current events. By doing so the workers have made a huge
step forward and have been able to clarify their situation to everyone who
has access to the Internet and follows the articles online.
3) Support from other companies. Many online posts from workers from other
companies have been supportive. They shared their experiences with bad
working conditions, unpaid overtimes, overtimes deleted from electronic
databases, etc.
4) Support from abroad and examples of other actions. Examples of strikes
from other countries were also mentioned (France, Korea...). We have also
seen solidarity messages from foreign workers, e.g. from Slovakia, Poland,
France... on the workers' discussion forum.
5) Media coverage. Mass media informed about the problem more or less
neutrally, in any case there were no articles directly against workers.
Hundreds of readers used the possibility to discuss on media websites.
The list could continue but it is too soon to evaluate the whole conflict.

Some thoughts on future developments

Hyundai. "Strike emergency" means that the union will take control over
the actions. No one can say what this step will bring. The negotiations of
new collective agreement will start in January 2010 and the unions will
want to take advantage of the workers' fighting spirit. The experience of
Czech Skoda workers from 2007 in a similar case is, however, not very
positive. If the union succeeds in the attempt to convince the workers not
to take independent actions, it will increase its power to decide about
the agreement.

The union in Hyundai represents cca 350 of total 2000 employees and
according to their treasurer Štefan Janík sees a big rise in the number of
people interested in joining it. Union demands are related mainly to
overtimes and management pressure on workers. The reason is probably that
they count on the fact that other problems will be dealt with from January
2010 as part of the new collective agreement. We can only guess if the
formulation of demands is in accordance with workers' opinions. Now it is
important to hold the power to make demands and accept agreements in
workers' hands, not unions'. That is, it should arise from discussions at
mass assemblies of workers in the halls during working time (without
presence of management representatives). The pressure on management would
thus double – they would not only face a couple of unionists but the whole
production sections that would assert their power and make decisions. It
is possible that now after the "strike emergency" was called, this power
will be lost. Next weeks will show how the workers balance their power and
the power of the union.

Regarding accepting of agreements, our opinion is that the procedure
should be similar: every decision should be discussed and accepted at the
mass assembly. Workers' delegates would be elected by the workers and they
would report the demands to the management. Under no circumstances could
they accept an agreement which would not be ratified by the mass assembly.

We also think that workers could start forming a strike committee. Usually
it is composed only of union representatives but we think it should be
autonomous – in the spirit of original autonomous actions. Every worker
should have the possibility to be a member of the strike committee. Union
membership does not matter.

Dymos. Dymos workers face a bigger problem. We do not have almost any
information from them. We do not know how they reacted to the announcement
about bonuses and wage freeze. We do not even know if there is any contact
between Hyundai and Dymos workers. Union demands do not mention Dymos
workers. If Hyundai workers stand up for them it will certainly be a great
display of solidarity and strength for the future.


What more can all those who are not working in Hyundai or Dymos do, other
than wish a lot of strength and a successful outcome? Here are some modest
• Express symbolic support on the workers' discussion forum or elsewhere
in the media.
• Ask workers from subcontracting companies to express their solidarity
individually or collectively. Some Czech companies are listed here:
• Inform friends and acquaintances at home and abroad about this struggle,
particularly if they work in car industry.
• If your workplace has been through a strike or any pre-strike situation,
you could share the experience, its pros and cons and what would you do
differently if the situation occurred again.

Priama akcia
Slovak section of International Workers' Association

Slovak version: Priama akcia-IWA website
German version: FAU-IWA website

Online discussion forum of Hyundai workers:


Dec 9 2009 14:31 (new)

There is a leaflet with the German version of the text that has amongst
others been distributed at Volkswagen in Germany. Feel free to download
the PDF file.

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