The management and employees of Hyundai Motor Co. finished this year’s wage negotiations without a strike for the first time in eight years.
“The ongoing trade disputes between South Korea and Japan arose during the negotiations, hanging heavy on us,” said the union, adding, “If we had staged an all-out strike under such circumstances, we would have had to face even more criticism from the public and a boycott of the products we make would have ensued.”
The union has approximately 50,000 members, accounting for one-third of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Much attention is being paid to whether the change in the stance of the militant trade union will affect the other local automakers and industries. After the news about Hyundai Motor, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon asked companies currently in the process of wage negotiations, including Kia Motors, GM Korea and Hyundai Heavy Industries, to make a prudent decision in view of ongoing economic difficulties.
Still, confrontation is going on in many other companies. In the automotive industry, GM Korea is currently in the process and unionized GM Korea workers are calling for a 5.65 percent increase in base pay whereas the management is insisting on a wage freeze. The workers staged a four-hour strike on Aug. 23 and 30 and are planning to go on an all-out strike next week. As for Renault Samsung Motors, the management is planning on downsizing and workers are resisting with talks yet to begin.
In the shipbuilding industry, Hyundai Heavy Industries workers are demanding a 6.68 percent increase in base pay and are going to go on a four-hour strike on Sep. 5 and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering workers are preparing to go on strike against acquisition by Hyundai Heavy Industries Group.