HHI union to hold its second strike

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HHI union to hold its second strike

The labor union of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) said Wednesday that it will hold another four-hour strike over wages on Thursday at 1 p.m., its second in 20 years.

Last week, the labor union and the company came to the negotiating table in an attempt to solve the wage issue, but failed to reach an agreement. As a result, the union held its initial rally on Nov. 27.

The labor union has sent letters to the company’s major shareholders and lawmaker Chung Mong-joon asking them to help solve the problem as soon as possible. But the company maintains that it can’t accept the union’s demands because it is in the middle of a serious financial crisis after taking losses of 3 trillion won ($2.69 billion) this year.

The labor union and management of the nation’s largest shipbuilder held more than 50 rounds of negotiations over a wage raise. The union is demanding a raise of 132,013 won to its monthly base pay and a two and a half month bonus. In return, 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.

Industry insiders said Thursday’s rally could be more aggressive than the one held last week because union members want to see progress. And since only 3,000 union members joined the rally last week, the union is worried about losing its power to continue the protest if they don’t make an impact.

Insiders said the more aggressive members want to keep pushing the strikes until their demands are met, and that other union members will be pressured in to join the strikes. The company estimates that it incurs losses of about 100 billion won during each four-hour strike.

The wage disagreement isn’t the only headache for HHI. The union of Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, an affiliate of HHI, held a meeting at its headquarters in Ulsan, South Gyeongsang, on Monday to announce that it will strike on Monday if the company doesn’t accept their demands or make a new offer by Friday.

The labor union and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard reached a tentative agreement on Nov. 6 to raise the monthly base pay by 37,000 won and give a month of pay plus 3 million won as a bonus, but the deal fell through the next day when 57 percent of the 2,900 union members voted against it.

The union at another HHI affiliate, Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, said it doesn’t have immediate plans to take industrial action, but that it may strike if the company doesn’t accept its demands.

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

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