* Workers seek 8.2 pct rise in the monthly basic wage
* Union boss seen as moderate despite "war" threat
* Labour talks come as profit, U.S. market share slide
By Hyunjoo Jin
SEOUL, May 15 Hyundai Motor Co's
South Korean labour union has demanded higher pay and bonuses
and more cuts to working hours, as the automaker heads into
annual wage talks in June under the threat of industrial action.
Any strike action in South Korea - which makes nearly 40
percent of Hyundai vehicles sold globally - could disrupt supply
around the world as the company fights to reverse a fall in
profits linked to the stronger won and competition from the
likes of Volkswagen AG.
New union boss Lee Kyung-hoon is seen as a moderate but he
has not ruled out industrial action, telling a union newspaper
in February that he was "willing to risk waging an all-out war"
to get a better deal for workers.
Hyundai, the world's fifth-biggest automaker along with its
affiliate Kia Motors Corp, has been hit by strikes
in all but four of the union's 27-year history, leading to lost
production worth 14.4 trillion won ($14.06 billion).
Union delegates finalised their demands late Wednesday,
including a 8.2 percent rise in the monthly basic wage and
performance pay totaling 30 percent of the automaker's 2013 net
profit distributed to workers.
The most contentious issue would be expanding the definition
of the regular wage, which is the basis for calculating overtime
and other payments to the firm's 47,000 workers in South Korea.
The union is also calling for daily working hours to be
trimmed by one hour to 16 from 2015, after the automaker scaled
them back from 20 to 17 starting from March last year.
MODERATE UNION BOSS
E*Trade Korea auto analyst Kang Sang-min said Hyundai faced
an "uphill battle" to reach an agreement with the union over
tricky issues like the regular wage.
"A potential disruption to output will dampen investor
sentiment, already hurt by Hyundai's decelerating growth," he
Hyundai, which was an outperformer during the 2009 global
economic downturn, has posted lacklustre earnings in the past
couple of years. Its January-March net profit slipped to its
lowest in five quarters, missing estimates.
The strengthening won and stiffer competition from rivals'
refreshed models has seen Hyundai's U.S. market share drop from
a record 5.1 percent in 2011 to 4.4 percent this year.
The labour talks will be the first since Lee took the reins
of South Korea's biggest union in December, stirring hope of
steadier industrial relations after his predecessor called
strikes in two consecutive years.
Lee led the union during a rare, strike-free period from
2009 to 2011, although a company spokesman said his previous
record counted for nothing in the forthcoming negotiations.
"The current union leader is seen as a moderate, but he is
still a unionist," the spokesman said.
Kia Motors is also preparing separate annual wage talks with
its South Korean union, while General Motors' South
Korean unit kicked off annual wage negotiations in late April.
($1 = 1024.3500 Korean Won)
(Editing by Stephen Coates)