Gov’t may intercede in auto strike

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Gov’t may intercede in auto strike

Intensifying clashes between Hyundai Motor and its labor union over wage increases is prompting the government to intervene to mitigate economic losses to the auto industry.

The automaker’s Korean union staged its first full nationwide strike in 12 years Monday after about 20 rounds of partial walkouts. However, neither side is willing to back down.

“If Hyundai Motor’s strike should continue, the government will come up with everything it can based on regulations and systems [to stop it],” said Lee Ki-kwon, the Minister of Employment and Labor on Wednesday.

Lee added that if the main manufacturer strikes, the consequence to its subcontractor is high. “Hyundai Motor’s subcontractors receive about 30 to 65 percent of what Hyundai Motor employees are receiving which averages 96 million won ($87,230) a year,” he said.

If the government practices its right to mitigate, the labor union cannot walk out for 30 days and the issue is handed over to the National Labor Relations Commission. If a regulation is issued, it would be the first time in 11 years that a government has intervened in a private company issue since it mitigated a strike by the unions of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines in 2005.

At Hyundai Motor, talks began Tuesday, a day after 49,000 union members went on strike. Park Yu-gi, the union chairman, said Thursday they “would do everything possible to win the wage negotiation battle.”

The two sides have been at odds since July. A tentative deal on wages was reached in August when the company suggested a monthly raise of 5,8000 won. The union rejected the proposal with 78 percent of the vote.

Hyundai Motor has refused to suggest a larger raise, citing sluggish returns. This year, the company posted a 7 percent yearly decline. Walkouts this year have already disturbed production of more than 100,000 units, reportedly costing the automaker more than 2 trillion won.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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