South Korean Auto Unions Gearing Up For Strike

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
south korean auto unions gearing up for strike

More than 70 percent of Hyundai’s 45,000 strong worker’s guild voted in favor of job actions, including a walkout planned for Friday. The guild is building up towards Hyundai’s first labor strike since 2008, as they seek better wages and reduced hours.

A report by Bloomberg lists the demands of Hyundai and Kia workers (who are also participating in the job action) as

a 151,696 won [$131] increase in monthly base pay [salary is around $39,000 for the average worker] and that the companies return 30 percent of net income to employees as bonuses…other demands include switching Hyundai Motor’s plants to two eight-hour shifts from the current double 12-hour rotation system…

Hyundai’s last strike in 2008 lasted 12 days and cost the company approximately 44,645 vehicles. The expanded overseas manufacturing presence of both Hyundai and Kia should help mitigate some of the damage, but a strike will still have negative effects on the steady sales growth of the two brands. While South Korean production only accounts for 46 percent of total production (down from 60 percent in 2008), overseas plants are operating at near full capacity, leaving little breathing room.

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26 of 27 comments
  • Jpolicke Jpolicke on Jul 12, 2012

    Sounds like they have no overtime laws there. How far does $39000 get you in S. Korea? It sounds like pretty good money for what I thought was a low cost-of-living country.

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    • Charly Charly on Jul 13, 2012

      @28-Cars-Later Not getting 30% of you normal yearly income is a lot harder than losing your second home

  • Detroit-X Detroit-X on Jul 12, 2012

    In a way, I say good for them. The internet tells them what the US and Germany pay their union people, and the benefits they get. It's only a matter of time before the wages equalize globally. You can fool some of the people, some of the time...

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    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Jul 12, 2012

      @don1967 Detroit-X makes an excellent point. These South Korean Auto Unions have the UAW as their role model and they saw for themselves how the UAW killed the US auto industry and actually profitted from that when the US government bailed them out along with their bankrupt employers. And on top of that the unions were given a chair at the table AND a part-ownership in the company. With an example like that, how can we possibly blame these unions for wanting the same gains for themselves? Hyundai/Kia and GM will give these unions whatever they want so as not to upset the applecart of North American operations. I would call that prudent strategy on the part of the unions. The end justifies the means.

  • El scotto El scotto on Jul 12, 2012

    I'm thinking water cannons, fist fights, and sound bites.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Jul 12, 2012

    How strange that Hyundai Alabama has a relatively happy, non-unionized labour force while Hyundai Korea does not. Is this explained by a difference in corporate culture between the two continents, or a difference in social culture?

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    • Carbiz Carbiz on Jul 13, 2012

      @Detroit-X The Alabama plant has only been open 7 years. Not enough time for workers to feel secure and start bitching. All was hunky dorey at the Honda Alliston plant for the first 10 years, too.... eventually, it's human nature to want more and to bite the hand that feeds you.