Union not making it easy on automakers during wage season

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Union not making it easy on automakers during wage season

The season of annual wage bargaining has arrived, and automakers are seeing obstacles in the road to reaching an agreement as their labor unions are coming to them with aggressive demands.

The labor union of Renault Samsung Motors, the Korean unit of French automaker Renault, said yesterday that it will launch a partial strike on Monday. The daytime and nighttime shift employees at the company’s Busan plant will each go on a one-hour strike when their shift is supposed to begin at 3:45 p.m.

The union members already approved taking industrial action through a vote last week. More than 94 percent of its 2,650 members favored industrial action. The nation’s fourth-largest automaker expects that 80 to 90 vehicles will not be produced due to a two-hour strike next Monday.

The RSM management and union had the first meeting for this year’s wage bargaining on Tuesday, but the two sides couldn’t narrow down their differences. The union has been asking for more money, while management has been proposing to freeze wages and reduce benefits, saying that the company has been going through a sales slump in recent years.
“We are still negotiating with the union,” an official from RSM said. “Everyone knows that the company is in a difficult situation, so we hope a full strike will not happen.”

Hyundai Motor, the nation’s largest automaker, began its first wage negotiation on Tuesday with its militant union coming with exorbitant demands.

The union already unveiled its proposals for this year’s wage bargaining earlier last month, including a 130,498 won ($117) monthly base pay raise, allocating 30 percent of the company’s net profit for workers’ bonuses, extending the retirement age to 61 and a 10 million won technical education allowance for employees’ children who didn’t go to college.?

Aside from the wage bargaining, Hyundai also needs to solve the issue with its irregular workers’ union, which has been asking for all temporary workers at the company to be promoted to full-time employees. The total number of temporary workers at Hyundai is estimated to be around 6,000 to 7,000.

The automaker last year announced it will hire 3,500 irregular workers, who are most in-house subcontractors, to full time employees by 2016. It has so far recruited 1,110 irregular workers.

The union of Kia Motors hasn’t yet to finalize its proposals for this year’s wage bargaining, but industry insiders said that it won’t be much different from its larger affiliate Hyundai.

GM Korea’s management and union had their first meeting on Thursday last week, but they are still struggling to reach agreement.

It also wants the nation’s third-largest automaker to hire more employees and implement daytime-only shifts. The union of Ssangyong Motor, the nation’s smallest automaker under India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, also began negotiations last week.

For the last three years, the automaker has been reaching an agreement with its union without any industrial action, so it is also hoping to wrap up this year’s wage bargaining without trouble.

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

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