Hyundai, Kia workers set to stage walkout after negotiations falter
by Youkyung Lee, The Associated Press
About 76,000 workers will determine extent of strike action at world's fifth largest automaker
SEOUL, South Korea—Labour unions at Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. said workers voted to strike after talks with management for increased pay and benefits collapsed.
Hyundai union spokesman Kwon Oh-il said management refused all demands by the union during three months of annual talks.
The union wants workers to get improved benefits, including $8,900 support to help children of unionized workers seek jobs if they don’t go to college, a $116 increase in monthly base income, bigger bonuses and full reimbursement of medical expenses if workers are diagnosed with cancer.
Kwon said 46,000 Hyundai workers will determine the extent of the strike early next week.
Kia’s 30,000 workers are taking a similar step.
Hyundai said it had offered to resume talks with the union on Aug. 16.
“We regret that the union has begun preparations to strike despite the company’s proposal to outline its offers in the next round of talks. There are also many aspects of the union’s demands that are hard to accept from the company’s point of view,” Hyundai said in a statement.
Kwon said Hyundai’s proposal was insincere and short of a full response to the union’s demands.
Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world’s fifth largest automaker, have been plagued by disputes with their unions for the past two years.
Hyundai’s latest earnings were hit by its union’s refusal to allow overtime for three weeks earlier this year and by the rising popularity of foreign cars in South Korea.
European and American automakers lowered prices after free trade deals took effect.
The maker of the Elantra said the industrial action resulted in lost output of 83,000 vehicles worth $1.5-billion.
The company estimated it lost production of 82,000 vehicles worth $1.5-billion due to 92 hours of walkouts by workers in 2012.
With labour strife at home and waning demand from Korean consumers, South Korea’s largest automaker has increasingly looked abroad to ramp up production.
Hyundai is considering increased production in China, its chief financial officer said last month.
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