Hyundai Motor's labour union picks moderate as new chief

SEOUL Fri Nov 8, 2013 9:31pm EST

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SEOUL Nov 9 (Reuters) - A labour union of South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co elected as its new president Lee Kyung-hoon, widely seen as a moderate, suggesting a period of steadier industrial relations after his predecessor led two strikes in two years.

Lee Kyung-hoon, who led the 46,000-strong union in 2009-11, a rare strike-free period, garnered 52.1 percent of the votes in a poll on Friday, defeating centrist rival Ha Boo-young, who got 46.9 percent, results released on Saturday show.

In the first-round election on Tuesday, three candidates seen by union members and the company as hardliners failed to reach the top two spots following a public backlash over strikes by highly-paid workers, signaling the country's once militant labour unions are weakening.

Lee, 53, who represents the union's largest faction, vowed to further cut the number of daily production hours to 16 from 17 by 2015, sooner than planned.

Last year, cutting working hours to 17 from 20 was among the thorniest issues in annual wage talks, resulting in the automaker's costliest strike, led by hardliner Moon Yong-moon. The union, founded in 1987, had strikes almost every year but four.

Lee also pledged to have the company offer 60 shares to each employee next year, among incentives equivalent to 30 percent of the company's net profit distributed to workers.

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