Hyundai labor unions extend strikes over pay negotiations

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Hyundai labor unions extend strikes over pay negotiations

Workers at Hyundai Motor continued their strike on Friday over failed wage negotiations, while the union at Hyundai Heavy Industries joined for the first time this year.

Employees went into work for a few hours and then walked off their shifts. For Hyundai Heavy Industries’ union, this is the fifth consecutive year of strikes over wage negotiations. Workers are requesting a 7.9 percent raise in base pay and a bonus of at least 250 percent the monthly salary. The company, however, has been trying to persuade the union to freeze wages because of flagging orders for ships.

At Hyundai Motor, the labor union began striking on Thursday. It is asking for a 5.3 percent, or 116,276 won ($102), raise in base pay and 30 percent of the company’s net income in bonuses. The company wants to settle with a 35,000 won raise in base pay and bonus of 200 percent the monthly wage plus a million won per employee. The union has gone on strike because of wage talks every year for the past six years.

The automaker expressed dismay with the strike “despite the difficult management situations at home and abroad.” Hyundai Motor’s operating profit in the first quarter slumped by 45.5 percent year on year to 681.3 billion won, affected by a strong won and sluggish sales in China.

The carmaker also faces threats of tariffs by U.S. President Donald Trump. The administration is planning a 25 percent tax on import cars to protect its auto industry, which could deal a blow to Hyundai’s sales in America.

The strikes were impacted by a greater move from the umbrella Korean Metal Workers’ Union, of which Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries unions are both a part. The umbrella union held a rally in front of Hyundai Motor Group’s headquarters in southern Seoul on Friday. An estimated 30,000 people participated, according to the union, though the police put its estimate at 12,000.

The rally included a bevy of other demands. They called for an end to the unfair trade terms between conglomerates and subsidiaries. They demanded a thorough investigation of former Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae, who is accused of influencing court decisions to curry favor with the previous administration. Some labor unions under the umbrella union had been affected by Yang’s rulings on cases involving companies like SsangYong Motor.

Prior to the Korean Metal Workers’ Union rally, about 30,000 members from the Korean Construction Workers’ Union gathered in central Seoul on Thursday to demand better labor laws for construction sites.

The Korean Financial Industry Union, which represents workers at commercial banks, has a strike planned for September.

Major requests include extending the retirement age to 63 from the current 60 and adopting a 52-hour workweek earlier than scheduled. For the financial industry, the deadline to implement it is next July.

Negotiations with banks to extend the retirement age fell apart because companies were concerned about fewer job opportunities for young job seekers.


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

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