Today, union members at Hyundai Motor Co. staged a partial strike that cost the automaker 43.5 billion won ($39 million) in lost output, with plans for another work stoppage tomorrow before resuming wage negotiations.
As unemployment rises and employers shift production overseas the moves today could signal a resurgence in union activism in South Korea, with past Hyundai union protests leading to clashes between police and militant unionists armed with steel pipes and Molotov cocktails.
The four-hour walkout by the Seoul-based company’s 45,000 union members resulted in lost production of 2,106 vehicles, according to South Korea’s largest automaker. Also, the union declared yesterday it would hold another partial strike tomorrow before resuming talks with the management on Aug. 22.
Stalled wage talks at Hyundai Motor last year led to the costliest walkout in its history, before management agreed to reduce working hours with two shorter day shifts. The workers have gone on strike in 22 of the past 26 years. The strikes this year take place as the weaker yen gives Japanese automakers an edge in cutting prices or offering better incentives.
Hyundai and Kia’s labor unions have said they’re demanding a pay increase of 130,498 won a month and for 30 percent of net income to be distributed to workers. The talks started May 28 for Hyundai and July 2 for Kia.