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Kia Motors workers to strike again for three days

Kia Motors (Yonhap)
Kia Motors (Yonhap)
Kia Motors’ labor union on Wednesday began a partial strike, its third collective action this year, following the collapse of negotiations over wages and other issues a day earlier. Lost production from strikes this year is expected to exceed 30,000 vehicles.

Representatives of the management and the union held talks for two days, but failed to reach a compromise. Following the talks’ collapse at midnight Tuesday, the union decided to cut work short by four hours per day for three days through Friday.

It is the third such action at the automaker. Unionized workers had already staged four-hour strikes Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 1, 2 and 4. Kia’s labor union has staged strikes in nine consecutive years.

The stoppage was to affect all aspects of Kia’s operations, from parts assembly to sales and maintenance. Disruptions appear inevitable for all of its car models, including the Carnival, Sorento and K5. Customer delivery could be delayed.

The automaker had already suffered more than 25,000 vehicles’ worth of lost production from factory shutdowns due to COVID-19 outbreaks among its workers and the partial strike at its Gwangju plant.

During their two-day negotiations, labor and management reportedly reached a substantial agreement on salaries and incentive payouts, as well as the establishment of an electric and hydrogen car module production line in its existing plant.

The management had proposed to freeze basic salaries but pay performance-based incentives totaling 150 percent of the monthly salary, as well as 1.2 million won ($1,108) per person in special bonuses for COVID-19 and 200,000 won in gift certificates for traditional markets -- the same package that Hyundai Motor employees have.

Negotiations broke down due to differences over overtime work.

While the union wanted to add 30 minutes of overtime to the daily shift system, the management rejected it because it would mean extra labor costs.

A union official said, “Although we can see that the company struggled to meet the union’s demands, there were still many shortcomings in reaching an agreement.”

The union said it is open to negotiations if the management comes up with a fresh proposal, and it plans to hold a committee meeting Friday to discuss its next course of action.

By Shin Ji-hye (