SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Korea Bizwire) — Hyundai Motor Company and its labor union remain locked in a stalemate with the domestic automotive industry in the midst of one of its most critical moments in recent history.
In what has become something of a yearly tradition, one of the chief sticking points in the talks is the union’s demand for increased wages and bonuses, and the company’s refusal to give in is of particular relevance with the auto industry currently slumping badly.
This year, the Korea Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), the umbrella labor organization of the Hyundai Motor Company labor union, issued a demand to all employers of its member unions for a base wage increase of 154,883 won per worker, in addition to existing periodic salary increases.
In addition, apart from the KMWU’s sweeping salary demands, the Hyundai Motor labor union has of its own accord requested bonuses comprising 30 percent of net profits. The bonuses would include stock owned by employees.
The talks over wages and bonuses are not believed to a topic of major concern at the moment, though some feel that the issue may become a point of contention once the negotiations draw to a close.
From the perspective of management, capitulating to such demands in the face of bleak market conditions and falling demand worldwide would be unacceptable. The circumstances the company finds itself in have won management little sympathy from the union, which has criticized poor leadership for the dire straits the company finds itself in. The union made its thoughts clearly felt when a spokesperson said “[the union] cannot ease its rage at [management's] attitude in demanding one-sided concessions”.
The second bullet point in the union’s list of demands is that the retirement age be raised to sixty-five from sixty. Another demand made every year, the union emphasizes the change as a necessary safety net for would-be retirees.
In response, management has asked its counterpart to throw out the request completely, on the grounds that the proposal was a “subject for criticism based on socially accepted beliefs and practices”.
The third major issue that is keeping both sides at arm’s length is the union’s demand for changes to the double shift system. Adopted in 2013, weekly work shifts were divided into two groups, with one working eight hours and the other working nine. Now cut to eight hours and twenty minutes, the union wants it be rounded down to eight. Management’s only response has been to simply dig in its heels and refuse to budge.
With no end in sight, on August 10 the union made the decision to go on strike, ensuring that Hyundai will see at least one work stoppage for the sixth straight year. The union arrived at the decision after 23 meetings between union leaders and management proved insufficient in achieving detente.