Kia Motors workers in South Korea to stage partial strike over wages, EV plans

SEOUL (Reuters) - Unionised workers at Kia Motors Corp 000270.KS in South Korea will launch a partial strike on Nov. 24 over wages and worries about job security as the automaker pursues plans to produce electric vehicles (EV), Kia's union said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Kia Motors is seen during the 2019 Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, South Korea, March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The union at South Korea’s No.2 automaker has decided to suspend work for a part of the day over Nov. 24-27, an union official said, adding Kia’s plan to introduce EV production is one of the thorny issues in the annual wage deal negotiations.

Kia has laid out plans to produce an EV model comparable to its K7 sedan at one of the factories in its Hwaseong plant in South Korea starting July next year, the union official said.

“Building electric cars requires about 30% less labour than building internal combustion cars, because they require fewer parts, resulting in job losses,” a union member at Kia said.

“If the shift to electric cars is inevitable, we are asking the management to ensure longer-term job security by having EV module production lines at our factories,” the member added.

Kia said in September that it plans to have eleven EVs by 2025 and have 25% of its global sales in EVs by 2029.

Automakers around the world are expanding their electric car production to comply with tougher air-pollution rules that require them to reduce carbon emissions or face stiff fines.

The union at Kia has also asked for a raise in wages and a performance pay, but these have not been accepted by the company, the union official said.

Kia wants to freeze wages but has proposed a bonus and other benefits if the union does not strike, a company official said on condition of anonymity as negotiations are ongoing.

The labour action at Kia comes even as the union at affiliate Hyundai Motor 005380.KS avoided a strike amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Joyce Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar