The labour union of Hyundai Motor has threatened to suspend the entire activity in the southeastern city of Ulsan, after a union member set himself ablaze due to alleged bullying by bosses.

The worker is hospitalised in a critical condition while police are investigating the case. The employee, whose name translates as Shin Seung Hoon, had burns on 71 per cent of his body, it said.

Hyundai’s spokesman said the reason for Sunday’s incident was unclear but the union said, citing his computer files, that the worker set himself on fire because a factory manager tried to “unfairly control” him after he reported engine quality problems to management.

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.

“We suspended production at the engine plant after the incident took place. The situation is serious and the suspension could be prolonged unless the company accepts our demands including preventing suppression of union activities from happening again,” a union official said.

Hyundai Motor and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors form the world’s fifth largest automaker by sales.

In November last year, Hyundai Motor’s union picked a militant candidate as its new leader.

Image credit: TravelPod member audreytravels.


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