The South Korean automaking industry sinks further into troubled waters as unions prep walkouts, adding to its multiple whammies of court battles with workers and stumbling sales at home and abroad.
The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), the interest group for the country’s five automakers, issued a statement on Thursday threatening to take their manufacturing facilities abroad if the court rules in favor of workers of Kia Motors in the interpretation of base salary.
Workers waged partial strikes at Hyundai Motor Co. and GM Korea Co. Similar movements are expected at Kia Motors Corp. and Renault Samsung Motors Co.
On Thursday, unionized factory workers at Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, laid down their tools for four hours in turns amid slow progress in wage negotiation. Another four-hour protest would take place on Monday. The union will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to extend the strike.
Workers at GM Korea last month also waged a four-hour strike amid reports that the American carmaker could shut down its Korean operation.
The union at Kia Motors will likely take synchronized action with its bigger sister company after a separate meeting. It already has voted in favor of a strike and is expected to decide on the scope and time upon the court ruling on its lawsuit. The union has sued the management for retroactive reimbursement of what it claims as overdue wages by counting in bonuses and various financial incentives as part of the base salary. The court has deferred its ruling originally scheduled for August 17. Kia’s management would have to pay 3.1 trillion won ($2.7 billion) to workers if it loses the case. Hyundai’s union has lost trials on the same case. A triumphant ruling for the Kia union could trigger appeals and similar lawsuits by other factory workers.
Renault Samsung Motors, which managed to stay strike-free for the last two years, is also expected to join the union action upon vote results Friday.
By Lee Seung-hoon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]