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Members of Hyundai Motor’s labour union will stage partial strikes for six days from Wednesday, stepping up their struggle against the company to seek higher wages and better working conditions.
The 44,000-strong union will strike for up to eight hours for six days – three days this week and three next – in an effort to force the company to accept their demands. Union officials will hold talks with the carmaker on Wednesday and Thursday on issues including pay increases, the number of permanent jobs and an end to the overnight shift.
The strike action raises concerns over labour unrest at the world’s fifth-largest carmaker by sales. The union held partial strikes for two days last month after it failed to reach an agreement with the company on pay and working conditions.
“We can shelve the strike plan any time if the company accepts our demands,” said Choi Byung-chang, a union official. “We will continue to talk to the company with sincerity, but we don’t expect the company to come up with measures to meet our expectations.”
He said the most contentious issues were permanent positions for contract workers and ending the overnight shift.
The union is also demanding an 8.4 per cent pay rise, a 30 per cent share of the company’s net profit as a bonus and an extension to the retirement age. Such demands come after Hyundai has reported strong growth in revenue and profits in recent years despite Europe’s debt crisis and the global economic slowdown.
The South Korean carmaker reported a 19.5 per cent jump in net profit to $4.4bn in the second quarter of this year with revenue rising 9.9 per cent on the back of strong sales in Europe, which also helped to offset sluggish domestic consumption.
Hyundai’s European sales surged 15.4 per cent in the April-June period, despite the market’s 6.3 per cent fall, thanks to South Korea’s free trade pact with the region.
Signs of labour unrest are increasing across the country’s auto industry.
The Hyundai union staged its first strike in four years last month, leading to production loss of 8,630 vehicles.
Mr Choi said the union at Kia Motors, Hyundai’s affiliate, would support the Hyundai workers’ latest strike action, while workers at General Motors’ Korea unit would also strike for two days from Wednesday. GM Korea suffered a production loss of 12,000 units due to strike action in July.
Analysts expect Hyundai to face more frequent industrial action after a militant union leader was elected in November