SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- Unionized workers at Hyundai Motor Co. voted to go on strike for higher wages on Tuesday, again casting a cloud over the country's top carmaker, which has been plagued by on-and-off walkouts.
In a vote held on Monday and Tuesday, 84 percent of 42,204 Hyundai workers who cast a ballot endorsed the strike proposal as the company's management maintained its wage freeze stance, a union spokesman said by phone.
Last week, Hyundai's 50,293-member union asked the National Labor Relations Commission to mediate the labor-management dispute, and the commission is scheduled to decide on whether to intervene in Hyundai's labor-management dispute over wages on Aug. 1.
In the past, Hyundai workers voted on industrial action before the commission made its decision, and the commission has so far never intervened in the company's wage deal.
In South Korea, a company's labor union is required to request that the commission mediates in a dispute with the company over wages. If not mediated, the union has the right to ask its members to vote on whether to go on strike.
Should Hyundai and its union fail to narrow the gap over wages and working conditions following the vote, Hyundai workers are expected to go on strike as early as August.
Any strikes in the carmaker's main plant in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, would deal a blow to the production of the popular Palisade sport utility vehicle and other models. The company and the union have recently agreed on increased production of the Palisade in Ulsan to meet rising demand for SUVs in global markets.
This year's looming strike comes as the automaker is faring relatively well on the back of brisk sales of SUVs that have helped jack up the company's bottom line.
In the current wage talks, Hyundai's 51,000-member union demanded an increase of 123,526 won (US$105) per person per month for the one-year period that ends in March in 2020, and a bonus package worth 30 percent of net company income for the 12 months to March 2019.
From the fourth quarter of last year to the first quarter of 2019, Hyundai posted a combined 1.87 trillion won in net profit.
Hyundai balked at the demands, citing challenges ahead such as an ongoing trade war between the United States and China and Japan's possibly extended restrictions on exports of key materials to Korea.
The company reported a net profit of 1.95 trillion won in the January-June period, up 27 percent from 1.54 trillion won a year earlier, helped by a weak won and robust sales of new models like the Palisade and the Sonata sedan.
Strong sales in the domestic and U.S. markets helped offset a sales slump in China.
Sales in the U.S. rose 2.5 percent on-year to 343,000 vehicles in the first half, while sales in China remained little changed at 350,000 units compared to 349,000 over the same period.
In the first six months, Hyundai sold a total of 2,210,000 autos, slightly up from 2,195,000 a year ago. It has achieved 47 percent of its annual sales target of 4.68 million units this year.
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