Hyundai Motor workers vote for first strike in four years

SEOUL Wed Jul 11, 2012 7:31am EDT

The headquarters of Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are seen in Seoul, November 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

The headquarters of Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are seen in Seoul, November 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak

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SEOUL (Reuters) - Workers at South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co voted to stage their first strike in four years after annual wage talks collapsed over working conditions, a union spokesman said on Wednesday.

The union plans to stage an eight-hour strike on Friday at the carmaker and will decide on any future action on Monday, the spokesman said.

The union at affiliate Kia Motors also voted to strike and planned to join their Hyundai colleagues on Friday. Workers at General Motors' South Korean factories had already launched a partial strike on Tuesday.

The most contentious issue at stake is a union demand to scrap overnight work, which has raised concerns among automakers about potential production losses.

Any strike action at Hyundai Motor would be a return to the labor conflicts of past years. The company has managed to avoid industrial action for the past three years, but before that had suffered stoppages every year for about two decades except for 1994.

In 2008 alone, a 12-day strike resulted in lost production of 44,645 vehicles worth 690.5 billion Korean won ($603.7 million).

The country's once-militant labor unions have been more accommodating recently and the incumbent conservative government has been tough on striking workers.

But militant labor leader Moon Yong-moon took over from his moderate predecessor at Hyundai last year and organized labor has been agitating for concessions ahead of the December presidential elections.

Shares in Hyundai Motor closed down 1.1 percent on Wednesday prior to the vote results and have lost 16 percent of their value since hitting a record closing high on April 30.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Matt Driskill and David Holmes)

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