2 Hyundai labor unions begin vote on strike

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2 Hyundai labor unions begin vote on strike

The labor unions of Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hyundai Motor began a vote Wednesday on whether to go on strike.

If a majority say yes, it is highly probable the two unions will hold a joint strike, according to industry insiders.

It would be the first joint strike in 23 years for the nation’s leading automaker and shipbuilder.

The last time a joint strike took place was in 1993, when a trade union encompassing union members of all Hyundai affiliates went on strike.

“We can’t say anything is absolute until all voting is over and official decisions are announced, but there is a chance the two labor unions will join forces for a strike,” a spokesperson from the Hyundai Heavy Industries labor union said.

After 14 rounds of wage negotiations failed to reach a consensus, the labor union of Hyundai Motor started the voting session with its 48,000 members on Wednesday.

The result is to be released today.

Historically, Hyundai Motor union members have always voted to strike after failed wage negotiations.

“We will set the date for our strike when all voting is finalized on Thursday, but it is possible that we will follow the schedule of a bigger labor group, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions,” a spokesman from Hyundai Motor’s labor union said.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is planning a nationwide strike for July 20.

Hyundai Heavy Industries union members also started voting on Wednesday. Their vote will last through Friday.

The shipbuilder and union members had sat for negotiations 18 times since May but failed to reach an agreement. As the National Labor Relations Commission, which is in charge of labor issues mediation, has already decided to halt its mediation between the company and labor union earlier this month, the union has official permission to go on strike should it gain a majority vote.

Hyundai Heavy Industries’ labor union says a major cause for going on strike is failed wage negotiations. However, industry insiders believe recent restructuring measures amongst the country’s shipbuilders pushed the Hyundai Heavy Industries labor union.

“The only way to revive the nation’s shipbuilding industry is to jointly act against the government’s policies for the industry,” Hyundai Heavy Industries’ union members wrote on the organization’s homepage. “We [Hyundai Heavy Industries] are the only one left.”

The labor union of Samsung Heavy Industries passed a plan to go on strike on June 28, with 92 percent voting for a strike.

The union of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering also voted on July 6 to strike, with 88.2 percent agreeing.

The companies are concerned the potential strikes may cut into productivity.

“A strike from labor unions is of no help to the company’s business normalization or assuring stable employment, especially at a time when companies are worrying about their survival,” a Hyundai Heavy Industries spokesperson said.

“It’s important that workers and business management combine forces to help revive the company.”

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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