Hyundai Heavy Industries should take responsibility for the deaths of subcontract workers

In 2014, a total of 13 workers were killed in their workplace, while working for Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). The death toll was the highest in recent years. It is believed that workplace injuries have increased, although we cannot confirm it because HHI did not report all the injury cases to the authorities.

In-house subcontract workers are particularly vulnerable to occupational injuries. Indeed, all of the 13 casualties in 2014 were in-house subcontract workers. In addition, workers’ healthcare costs are usually paid by the subcontractors or workers themselves, i.e. neither by HHI nor through insurance. Accordingly, workers cannot get adequate treatment or receive compensation for their loss. Subcontractors and their employees usually do not report workplace injuries or claim the workers’ compensation, for fear of discontinuation of their contracts or being fired, though they are under the national workers’ compensation system by law.

The recent increase of death toll among subcontract workers is associated with the “risk-outsourcing” policy of HHI. HHI has never openly taken responsibility for injuries of inhouse subcontract workers. HHI has also denied illegal cover-ups of such cases. Rather, HHI asserts that the subcontractors are responsible for workplace injuries and the purported coverups. However, all workers and their tasks are clearly under the control of HHI and it has not taken adequate health and safety measures for workers. In a strictly hierarchical structure of production, HHI is the only entity which can effectively prevent or mitigate workplace injuries. Without HHI’s sincere engagement, neither workers’ injuries nor their cover-ups will be reduced.

HHI’s refusal to take responsibility is a clear human rights violation. If HHI investors and customers connive at such behaviors of HHI, it is equivalent to human rights violations.

We urge all investors, purchasers, and civil society to realize the current situation and to exercise their influence to make HHI take responsibility for workers’ injuries and implement adequate measures to protect subcontractors and their employees.

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