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Mutual trust is key

July 18,2017
The union of the country’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor Group has voted in favor of going on strike for the sixth consecutive year. The walkout won’t immediately take place since the decision must go through mediation from the National Labor Relations Commission, and the union and management also agreed to continue negotiation. But the automaker’s decision to stage a strike still raises deep concerns.

Hyundai Motor’s sales sank 8.2 percent in the first half against the same period one year ago. It has incurred loss in its Chinese operation with sales plunging 42 percent, or 60 percent in terms of shipment value. Hyundai Motor was hit hard by the boycott of Korean brands in China following Seoul’s decision to deploy a U.S. missile shield (Thaad) and fast proliferation of Chinese car brands.

The automaker needs concentrated efforts to save sagging sales. It could further lose confidence from overseas consumers if it continues to have labor conflicts despite such hostile sales environment overseas.

Of course, workers have the right to strike. But Hyundai Motor’s union represents the largest factory workplace in Korea. It has the responsibility of setting the role model to other industrial workers.

A strike at a major carmaker sends shockwaves down the supply chain, suppliers and subcontractors. As the strike will surely worsen their profitability, it can endanger their livelihoods. The Hyundai Motor union must not forget that its small and mid-sized partners threatened to wage a boycott campaign of Hyundai Motor cars after the union jeopardized their livelihoods through a lengthy strike last year.

Korea maintained its rank as the world’s fifth largest producer of cars until last year. But it could slip to seventh this year. Cars along with semiconductors represent Korea’s industrial power. The union must seek other options through negotiations with management and avoid laying down their tools.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 17, Page 30