Hyundai, Kia workers vote to strike

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SEOUL – Workers at top South Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor voted Wednesday to strike for better pay and working conditions — a year after ending the costliest dispute in the company’s history.

Ignoring an appeal from management, labor unions at Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors opted for industrial action, which will begin after a legally-binding period of mediation which typically lasts around 10 days.

Hyundai’s union wants a 130,500 won ($120) increase in basic monthly salary for workers, a performance-based bonus equivalent to eight month wages and a one-off shared cash payment for members amounting to $2.4 billion — or 30 percent of last year’s net profit.

Kia’s union has presented similar proposals.

The Hyundai management had tried to avoid a costly stoppage with a message to unionized workers saying the company could not afford to meet their demands at a time of heightened competition and slowing growth in overseas markets.

“We’ve seen a decline in our earnings because foreign brands quickly eat into our domestic market share and the economy at home and abroad remains sluggish,” the message said.

The union staged 28 partial strikes between July and September last year, cutting production by more than 82,000 vehicles valued at 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion).

Kia lost an estimated 1.03 trillion won to industrial action in 2012.

Hyundai’s second quarter net profit this year fell 1.0 percent from a year earlier to 2.52 trillion won.

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