Hyundai chairman asks workers not to strike

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Hyundai chairman asks workers not to strike

Early Wednesday morning at the headquarters of Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Gyeongsang, the company’s chairman, Kwon Oh-gap, was out distributing flyers to employees coming in for work. Printed on the paper was a letter from the chairman to employees pleading with them not to launch a four-hour strike scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m., which will be the company’s first in 20 years.

“I will not receive my wage until the company starts making a profit and becomes normalized,” Kwon was quoted as saying to employees in the letter. “Our company is in a very serious [financial] crisis and it is much worse than many people think. Many of the company’s executives have stepped down from their posts and are working hard to normalize the company, but since it can’t be done without your cooperation, I ask you not to launch a strike because it will not change anything for you.”

The labor union and the company held 51 rounds of negotiations over wage increases, but they had not reached an agreement as of press time Wednesday. The union is demanding that the company raise its monthly base pay by 132,013 won ($123) and give a two and a half month bonus. The company offered a 37,000 won raise and a 5 million won bonus and said it would extend the retirement age from 58 to 60 next year.

After the negotiations ended unresolved on Nov. 19, the union staged a one-hour walk out the following day.

But according to the letter from the chairman on Wednesday, the company is standing firm on its decision not to accept the demands made by the union.

“To make it clear, let me say that the company will not make any new offers,” Kwon continued in the letter. “Due to the new wage system implemented by the government earlier this year, the average monthly wage will be increased by an average of 12.6 percent and the company has also offered a big enough bonus. This is a huge burden on the company already, but the labor union is asking for more and is threatening the company with a strike.”

The chairman added that the financial situation at Hyundai Heavy Industries is getting worse, saying it has lost many of its recent bids for shipbuilding projects.

“It looks like it will not be easy for the labor union to get what it wants this time,” said Prof. Cho Dong-keun at Myongji University’s economics department. “The shipbuilder has failed to find new business opportunities when it had a hard time due to unstable foreign exchange rates and the weak Japanese yen, and it looks like the situation will not improve much next year.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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