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(2nd LD) Unionized workers of Hyundai Motor extend strike, denting output

All News 19:47 July 22, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with rally near Hyundai Motor headquarters)

SEOUL, July 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top automaker Hyundai Motor Co. again stood to lose billions of won in sales and output as its unionized workers continued their partial strike for a fourth day Friday.

Tens of thousands of workers at the company's main plant in Ulsan walked off the job and traveled to the company's headquarters in southern Seoul in a protest visit.

The rally near the company’s headquarters also drew unionized workers from other affiliates of Hyundai Motor Group and other unionized workers of the Korean Metal Workers' Union, an umbrella labor organization to which Hyundai Motor union belongs.

Police estimate the number of participants at 10,000, though the Korean Metal Workers' Union claimed about 15,000 workers joined the rally.

Police said they deployed about 5,700 police officers near Hyundai Motor headquarters. No clash was reported.

Hyundai Motor said four-hour strikes over the past three days have already cost some 3,500 cars in reduced output worth 79 billion won (US$69.55 million).

The extended walkout comes after the latest and 14th round of negotiations between the company and its unionized workers again fell through Thursday.

Both the management and labor union note the sides remain far apart on most thorny issues that include a pay raise and better working conditions.

The automaker has faced a labor strike every year after the union was formed in 1987, save four. The strikeless years were 1994, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

However, this year's labor strike has introduced a whole new dimension, as the union is also demanding joint negotiations led by the Korean Metal Workers' Union, the outcome of which would affect workers at not only Hyundai Motor but also its dozen smaller affiliates, including Kia Motors Corp., auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Steel.

The company refuses to attend such negotiations, noting it is not required to do so by law and that one single wage system cannot be applied to all workplaces.

The company has yet to even offer counteroffers to the union's demand on pay raises and other working conditions.

Apparently recognizing the wide gap between them, the company and unionized workers agreed to resume formal negotiations after summer break, which will end on Aug. 8.

The unionized workers said they will again stage a partial strike on Wednesday.

Also joining Friday's partial walkout were unionized workers at Kia Motors, the country's second-largest automaker, despite the government labeling it a politically motivated illegal strike.

Unlike Hyundai Motor workers, unionized workers at Kia have not yet gone through the due process of wage negotiations or a vote to decide whether to stage a walkout.

Unionized workers at shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. also continued their partial strike for a fourth consecutive day, suspending operations at the company's main plant in Ulsan for seven hours starting at 9 a.m.


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