SEOUL, June 15 (Korea Bizwire) — The liability of each striker should be counted individually in a damages suit over a labor strike, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, a landmark decision expected to set the tone for similar labor dispute cases in the future.
The ruling came in a damages suit filed by Hyundai Motor against 29 participants in a temporary workers’ strike at the automaker’s factory in Ulsan, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in November and December 2010.
Hyundai Motor had sought 2 billion won (US$1.56 million) in damages from the defendants, claiming the factory’s operation had been suspended for 278 hours but later withdrew the suit against 25 of them, leaving four defendants.
A district court had ruled in favor of Hyundai Motor and the Busan High Court had upheld the decision ordering the defendants to pay 2 billion won to the firm.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the appellate court ruling and sent the case back to the Busan High Court for retrial on the account that the liability of each defendant should be counted individually because the level of involvement in the decision-making and execution behind the strike was different for each striker.
“The degree of liability for each union member should be counted comprehensively in consideration of his or her status and role inside the union, level of participation in the strike and contribution to the (business) losses incurred,” the Supreme Court said.
The court also ruled such differentiation is necessary because it is often difficult for an ordinary member of a labor union to defy the union’s decision to go on strike.
Hyundai said the top court’s decision is “regrettable,” as such a ruling in favor of labor unions could have an impact on the automobile industry.
“We will thoroughly review the Supreme Court’s ruling and prepare for the retrial at the high court,” a company spokesperson said by phone.