In wake of bloody strike, end to Hyundai impasse

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In wake of bloody strike, end to Hyundai impasse

The management and union of Hyundai Motor reached a tentative agreement on wage hikes and improved work shifts yesterday after nearly four months of negotiations.

After 21 rounds of talks that started in May, the nation’s No. 1 automaker announced the two sides have finally agreed to introduce a working system based on two daytime shifts - therefore axing the graveyard shift - and a 5.4 percent, or 98,000 won ($87), increase of the base wage, plus additional bonuses.

This temporary agreement will be put to a union vote on Monday.

“We got the best deal we could expect from the management, so we expect our members to act prudently during the vote,” a union representative said yesterday.

Both sides agreed to discuss the matter of transforming workers from in-house subcontractors to regular workers in a separate meeting, a change which would entitle them to better pay and benefits. As such, the issue was not included in yesterday’s agreement.

The wage and welfare agreement was scheduled to be announced late Wednesday night, but a number of irate union members blocked the door to the negotiation room at the company’s Ulsan plant, insisting the company come up with a better deal.

If the agreement is passed it would change the company’s working system for the first time in 45 years and make Hyundai the first local carmaker to implement daytime-only shifts.

Currently, each of the shifts runs for 10 hours, with the second group working until early in the morning. However, the new deal shortens the working day slightly (eight hours for the first group and nine hours for the second) and lets those on the latter shift finish just after midnight.

The company first proposed that the new system be introduced next June, but finally agreed to implement it beginning on March 4 after a two-week test period in January.

To maintain current levels of productivity, Hyundai said it will also invest 300 billion won on its product line-up.

It said the deal is the best its employees have wrangled in the company’s history, as it grants each worker a maximum annual wage raise of 22.4 million won, including bonuses.

Twelve recent incidents of strikes from the union have caused an estimated production loss of 79,362 vehicles worth 1.646 trillion won, Hyundai said.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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