Hyundai Heavy’s union asks for a heavy raise

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Hyundai Heavy’s union asks for a heavy raise

The trade union of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is being mocked for demanding hefty wage hikes as its industry teeters on the brink of collapse.

The union of HHI, the country’s largest shipbuilder, launched a ceremony to start wage negotiations with management on Wednesday. The union demanded a 96,712 won ($83.70) or around 6 percent increase in base salaries. A guarantee of a yearly incentive of 250 percent of their monthly salary, and hikes in other allowances. It also urged management to send the 100 best-performing employees for overseas training every year.

As of last year, HHI was sitting on 11.4 trillion won in debt. On April 28, it announced it will cut 25 percent or as many as 60 executives from its five shipbuilding affiliates - Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, HYMS and Hyundai Engineering & Technology. The shipbuilding group is offering buyouts to manager-level employees, too, all part of its restructuring efforts being undertaken by all of Korea’s troubled shipbuilders.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Samsung Heavy Industries laid off 30 percent of their executives last year.

Korea’s shipbuilding industry is in a severe hole and may need at least 5 trillion won in public funds to salvage the three major companies. Korean shipbuilders once topped the global shipbuilding industry by the number and volume of orders. But after the U.S.-triggered global financial crisis in 2008 and the Eurozone crisis that followed in 2011, demand for new vessels slid as global trade continued shrinking. As of April, the three shipbuilders won just three orders in total this year.

“Against this backdrop, the union is asking for the utterly impossible,” said an employee at HHI. “If management takes in all the demands, it will cost the company an additional 400 billion won a year at the minimum.”

“HHI had the highest salary (78.26 million won) per head in the industry last year, which makes the union’s demand even more absurd,” he added.

The trade union of HHI claims that the company should use internal cash reserves worth about 12.4 trillion won, and sell its 91.1 percent stake in Hyundai Oilbank, to raise its members wages.

BY MUN HEE-CHUL, SONG SU-HYUN [song.suhyun@joongang.co.kr]

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