Hyundai union strikes

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Hyundai union strikes

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A Hyundai Motor production line in Ulsan stands idle yesterday after union workers left work two hours earlier than usual in a partial strike. The union and management have scheduled another round of contract negotiations tomorrow. The leading Korean automaker is believed to have suffered losses estimated at 43.5 billion won on the first day of the strike. [NEWSIS]

Hyundai Motor’s labor union began a partial strike yesterday - a routine annual event and major headache for the world’s fifth-largest automaker - after the breakdown of contract negotiations with management over wages and other benefits.

Tens of thousands of workers at its factories nationwide - Ulsan, Jeonju in North Jeolla and Asan in South Chungcheong - halted operations from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., depending on the teams to which they belong.

They plan to repeat the action today. Union workers also have pledged not to participate in any overtime work on both weekdays and weekends for the duration of the strike goes.

The union made the decision late Monday night, saying, “The company is not being sincere about negotiations, postponing giving answers to the demands from the union.”

The work stoppage yesterday caused a production loss of 2,106 vehicles, which translates to financial damage of 43.5 billion won, Hyundai estimated yesterday.

Labor and management sat down at the negotiating table for the first time on May 28 and have had 17 more sessions thus far.

More than 80 percent of workers voted for a strike after negotiations broke down.

They will meet again tomorrow and if no agreement is reached, the union will set the schedule for the upcoming strike.

The list of 180 union demands include: an average monthly pay raise of 130,498 won; a year-end bonus of 800 percent of monthly wage, versus current level of 750 percent; incentives equal to 30 percent of net profit; and extension of retirement age to 61 years old from 58.

Hyundai says the demands are “far-fetched, given that the package would cost more than 100 million won per worker.”

“For the union to proceed with the strike when a conversation is impending is only adding chaos and damage to not only us, but also numerous business partners,” said a company spokesman.

The work stoppage also dealt a blow to 330 parts suppliers, which were forced to suspend deliveries to the automaker.

Last year, when the union halted work for 28 days, more than 5,000 Hyundai business partners that were either directly or indirectly linked to the automaker lost a combined 1.7 trillion won.

Industry insiders predict the union will gradually ratchet up the strike from partial to complete in an attempt to reach an agreement with management prior to the fast approaching Chuseok holiday, which falls on Sept. 19.

Underlying the forecast is the fact that the union is scheduled to hold an election for its leadership in late September or early October.

Since the Hyundai Motor union was established in 1987, there have been just four strike-free years: 1994, 2009, 2010 and 2011.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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