Job insecurity amid EV rise poses as labor sticking point at Korean automakers

2020.09.11 13:52:58 | 2020.09.11 14:12:59

[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]이미지 확대

[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]

Who gets the new workload for electric vehicles has become a simmering sticking point between the management and union at Korea’s top automakers Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. whose corporate future could hinge on future mobility, however, at the cost of human labor.

As the unions of the two carmakers under Hyundai Motor Group enter collective bargaining, they have made the demand for job security under EV-focused environment as their top priority.

They demand key components for EVs like motors, speed reducers and inverters as well as other cooling module parts be produced at their workplaces by installing EV-dedicated lines or renovating existing factories instead of outsourcing them.

“We need a Plan B against machinery replacements amid mobility migration to electronics and electric vehicles. We oppose to the key components become entirely manufactured by Hyundai Mobis and elsewhere,” said the union at the meeting with the management this month.

Hyundai Motor’s union also asks the management for more eager efforts to bring overseas work to domestic lines.

Kia Motors union is strongly protesting to Hyundai Mobis’ project to build an EV-dedicated manufacturing plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

Hyundai Motor이미지 확대

Hyundai Motor"s 45 EV Concept Car. [Photo by Hyundai Motor Co.]

Hyundai Mobis announced late last month that it would build a parts manufacturing plant for 35.5 billion won ($29.9 million) with an annual capacity of powering 150,000 vehicles starting September. It aims to complete an auto parts cluster at home, consisting of its three production bases including Chungju and Ulsan.

Employees started placing job security as top priority in this year’s collective bargaining as they fear less need of human labor in the new mobility era. Eco-friendly vehicles powered by electricity and hydrogen use smaller number of components, about 20-30 percent (up to 50 percent) less than traditional, combustion engine-driven cars.

If the eco-friendly cars become a norm on Korean roads, nearly one-fourths of Hyundai Motor factory workers could lose their jobs, according to a scenario studied by the union last year.

Hyundai Motor currently aims to shift two of its five plants in Ulsan, capable of producing 600,000 units per year, to EV-dedicated lines by 2024. The first plant has already upgraded facilities with an annual capacity of 77,000 units to start rolling out Ioniq brand EVs built on self-developed E-GMP platform from next year.

By Lee Jong-hyuk and Lee Ha-yeon

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