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(LEAD) Hyundai unionists threaten to stage general strike if gov't orders emergency arbitration

All News 14:51 October 05, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info, details from 4th para; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) -- Unionized workers at Hyundai Motor Group threatened Wednesday to stage a general strike if the government invokes its right to emergency arbitration to order workers at South Korea's No. 1 carmaker to return to work, sources said.

The move came after Labor Minister Lee Ki-kweon said last week the government would consider calling for an emergency measure if the trade union and management fail to iron out a compromise and end a strike at Hyundai Motor Co. that is seriously hurting car parts subcontractors and the overall economy.

By law, the government can intervene to suspend a walkout when it is related to public services, adversely affects the daily lives of the general public and jeopardizes the national economy. If enacted, the concerned parties are required to immediately suspend walkouts for the following 30 days.

Should a general strike begin, some 98,000 workers, including those from the group's affiliates -- Kia Motors Corp., Hyundai Rotem Co., Hyundai KEFICO Corp. and Hyundai Steel Co. -- are expected to join.

"We cannot condone the government dismissing our legitimate strike as being illegal," a unionist told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity. "(We) will neutralize the emergency arbitration move through a general strike by our 100,000 unionists."

Opposition lawmakers chimed in to support the unionized workers, although the government warned against any major strike, which it said would hamper its efforts to shore up growth amid growing uncertainties in the global economy.

"The current labor-management relations are careening towards the worst point since the foreign exchange crisis (in the late 1990s)," said Rep. Lee Yong-deuk of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea who is a member of the National Assembly's committee on environment and labor.

"Opposition lawmakers will not turn a blind eye to the government's hard-line response that only foments conflict rather than fostering dialogue or compromise," he added.

Lim Seo-jeong, a senior labor ministry official, said that the act of workers in Hyundai Motor Group joining a general strike on an issue not directly related to their individual workplaces goes beyond the legal limits.

"Hyundai Motor's unionists should settle their issues through a labor-management compromise rather than a strong struggle," Lim added.

This photo, taken on Sept. 30, 2016, shows unionized workers of Hyundai Motor Co. staging a rally during their partial strike in Ulsan, 414 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)


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