SEOUL, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor’s South Korean workers have voted to strike for a third consecutive year after annual wage talks broke down, a union spokesman said on Friday.
The looming industrial action, which could start as early as Aug. 22 unless a deal is reached, comes as Hyundai struggles with a stronger local currency, which hurt its earnings.
Hyundai, the world’s fifth-biggest automaker along with its affiliate Kia Motors, has been hit by strikes in all but four of the union’s 27-year history, leading to lost production which the company estimated as worth a total of 14.4 trillion Korean won ($14.1 billion). The automaker usually made up for the lost production later each year.
A total of 69.7 percent of Hyundai’s 47,262 unionised workers in South Korea, or 79.3 percent of those of who voted, approved potential strike action.
Since annual wage talks began in early June, Hyundai Motor and union negotiators have wrangled over a new wage calculation, which the company says would sharply increase labour costs.
The country’s supreme court ruled last year that regular bonuses should be counted as base wages used to calculate overtime allowances and other benefits, putting pressure on businesses to change their wage schemes to reflect the decision.
Hyundai’s domestic rivals Ssangyong Motor and the local unit of General Motors earlier reached wage deals with their separate unions after they agreed to introduce the new wage system.
Hyundai Motor’s new union boss, Lee Kyung-hoon, is seen as a moderate, but he has not ruled out industrial action.
Hyundai shares ended down 1.5 percent on Thursday in a flat market. (1 US dollar = 1,020.95 Korean won) (editing by Jane Baird)