Kia’s strikes continue over wages

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Kia’s strikes continue over wages

The labor union of Kia Motors, Korea’s second-largest automaker, went on a partial strike yesterday after the union and management couldn’t reach an agreement on a workers’ wage system that has been negotiated for more than three months.

Kia is the only local automaker that hasn’t reached an agreement with its union this year.

The company said the union went on an eight-hour strike (four hours each by two shifts) after the 22nd and 23rd rounds of negotiations held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sohari Plant in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi. The first shift stopped working from 11:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., and the second shift took off from 8:20 p.m. to 12:20 a.m. today.

The affiliate of Hyundai Motor Group said it offered a 92,000 won ($86) increase in workers’ monthly wages and an annual bonus of four months’ salary plus 8 million won.

The union is holding out for a 159,000 won monthly wage increase. It also wants the company to distribute 30 percent of its net profits as bonuses to workers and extend the retirement age for workers.

The two sides are not even close to agreeing on whether regular bonuses should be calculated as part of base pay, which is used to calculate other benefits like overtime and retirement pay. The Supreme Court last year said all bonuses that are uniform and regularly paid should be considered part of base pay, and the issue is a major one in management-labor relations this year.

Kia proposed to form a separate consultative group to discuss the bonus issue by March 31 next year.

The proposal made by Kia was similar to what Hyundai Motor agreed to with its labor union earlier this month.

Hyundai said it would wait for a court ruling in its own case on base wages and that its bonuses are not regularly paid because workers have to meet certain conditions - working 15 days in two months - to receive them.

The union and Hyundai agreed to form a committee to discuss the bonus issue and reached agreement on other issues: raising basic monthly salaries by 98,000 won and giving workers bonuses of three months’ salary and a lump sum of 5 million won. But Kia’s union said it can’t follow the Hyundai case because its bonus system is entirely different.

Kia’s union will hold a meeting Monday to decide the level of strikes for the future. Industry sources said negotiations will resume after the weekend.

“The reason it is taking longer than people expected is the company is working on collective bargaining issue besides the wage negotiations,” a Kia Motor spokesman said. “We expect to reach an agreement soon.”

Before yesterday’s strike, the union launched seven partial strikes this year, incurring about 390 billion won in lost sales as the production of 22,700 cars was delayed.


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