Hyundai auto workers strike for first time in four years

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Artist's rendition of the Hyundai corporate logo.

Hyundai workers are on strike, for the first time in four years. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Nanovapor9/Wikipedia)

For the first time in approximately four years, the primarily labor union of automotive workers for South Korean automaker Hyundai Motors has gone on strike. Reports indicate that labor officials will resume talks with Hyundai management by Wednesday. However, a partial strike is scheduled again for Friday, an indication that the sides may still be far apart.

Battling the Lee Myung-bak regime

Tension between the primary auto worker’s labor union and the world’s fifth-largest automaker and its affiliate Kia Motors has grown in recent weeks. Overtime work on the dates July 26 and July 27 will reportedly be refused.

“The chance is slim for us to seal a wage deal before the summer vacation which is from July 28 to August 5,” said union spokesman Kwon Oh-il.

The current Hyundai workers’ strike, which began on July 13, is the first such labor insurrection in nearly four years, noted Reuters. Ongoing negotiations collapsed, as workers and management could not come to sufficient agreement regarding working conditions. The South Korean auto workers trade unions, once a powerful force, have been hamstrung since conservative President Lee Myung-bak came into power in 2008. The president’s tough anti-labor position has stood in stark contrast to the labor union’s demands for better working conditions. Things may change later this year, however, as the next presidential election is up for consideration.

Financial industry ablaze

In addition to the Hyundai labor strike, over 70,000 financial sector workers in South Korea voted July 13 to go on strike later in July. If the plan proceeds, it will be the first strike in that industry for South Korea in 12 years. This comes at the same time that the nation cut its growth outlook in the face of deepening financial crisis across Europe. The debt load on South Korean households is at a high-water mark, mirroring the dilemma many families face worldwide during this global recession.

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Hyundai shares on the rise

Shares of Hyundai Motors have lost 15 percent of their value since May, when euro zone tensions reached a boil. However, in the most recent trading, stock was up 1.11 percent in the global market. The eight-hour work stoppage on July 13 after the initial strike announcement cost the automaker an estimated 4,300 vehicles, worth $76.5 million, according to a Hyundai spokesman.


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