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Hyundai twittering over staff unrest

Overheating: Hyundai Australia has pledged to address alleged complaints by staff over workload and bonuses.

Lee promises to face Hyundai staff concerns after Twitter outburst

16 Feb 2010

HYUNDAI Australia management has been stung by comments made by its employees on the Twitter social networking site.

A Twitter thread featured accusations that company chief executive Edward Lee had introduced harsh working conditions, that redundancies were being planned and even suggested last year's departure of sales and marketing director Kevin McCann was related to Hyundai's failure to pay a promised bonus for reaching 60,000 sales.

The authors appeared to have inside knowledge of the Hyundai operation, but it is difficult to trace their identities as none used their real names.

Some of the statements on the thread, which gained publicity when it was reported by Crikey.com.au, verged on the bizarre including one that read: "All long-term staff be careful, Edward wants to get rid of you."Others spoke of long hours and their effects on workers: "I can tell you there are a lot of stressed employees who take their frustrations home with them. There are sleepness nights, health problems."

 center imageLeft: Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief executive Edward Lee.

Another used the Twitter thread to make a direct appeal to Mr Lee: "Edward, how do you think the husbands, wives, children and families of your staff are feeling. Been doing 11-hour days, it is expected when working for an autocratic operator."Mr Lee has confirmed he will raise the issues aired on Twitter with employees at Hyundai Australia's next quarterly meeting and ask them to voice any concerns they have with him.

"I will meet our employees next Monday and have an open discussion, (and ask) what is the problem? What is wrong?" he said.

"If there is any misunderstanding I will try to explain. If there is any concern we can discuss, I am open minded, come to me and we can discuss."Mr Lee said he was not aware why any of the 110 employees at Hyundai's head office in Sydney would be unhappy.

"I don't know what is the reason," he said. "I was very surprised that there were any negative comments. We are a growing company, doing very well and most of our people are doing very well I think."One of the comments alluded to the sudden departure of sales and marketing chief Kevin McCann at the end of last year. Mr McCann did not have another job to go to and no reasons for his departure were made public at the time he left.

One Twitter post alleged: "Sales and marketing director has been sacked, he asked for the bonus promised for 60,000 sales and gets sacked."Mr Lee would not comment when GoAuto asked why Mr McCann left the company suddenly, but did say that he, along with other staff, was paid a bonus for reaching 60,000 sales.

"I don't think that (accusation) is true. I gave the promised bonus too him, he has a KPI bonus and I paid everything," he said.

"We gave more than was in the bonus to all employees."Hyundai Australia public relations manager, Ben Hershman, added the following explanation of Mr McCann's departure, which led to two other employees sharing the vacant position of sales and marketing chief: "The company is growing globally, there is a global restructure out there, as part of setting the company up for the future and making sure it is sustainable, the role of sales and marketing was relinquished by Kevin, Kevin left the company and the company thanks Kevin for all his hard work."Another issue raised related to a proposed redundancy package that included a 12 week wage cap regardless of time served, which had concerned several of the Twitter posters when raised in the weeks before all employees go through a regular performance review process.

Mr Lee said he would like to hear any concerns regarding this issue so that changes could be made if required.

He was at a loss as to why some Twitter posters were worried about job losses: "I don't know why they are concerned about that because we are hiring more people."Meanwhile, the Seoul central district court in South Korea last week ordered Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-koo to repay 70 billion won ($A68.3 million) to the company for losses resulting from his business decisions.

News wire services report that the court ruled on a damages claim brought against Mr Chung in 2008 by a group of 14 minority shareholders and a non-governmental group known as the ‘Solidarity for Economic Reform’.

The claim for compensation was reportedly in relation to losses the company suffered in 2001 from its participation in share sales of affiliates Hyundai Airspace and Aircraft Co and Hyundai Hysco.

AFP quoted the judges’ ruling (via news agency Yonhap) as saying: “This is a case that reveals the problem of family-run management that focuses on the interests of major stockholders and the executives of Hyundai Motor.”

The ruling follows Mr Chung’s conviction in 2008 for breach of trust and embezzlement, for which he was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He later received a presidential pardon.

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