Hyundai Motor Union Scales Back Strike Plan

Unionized workers at Hyundai Motor, South Korea's top auto maker, have scaled back a plan for work stoppages this week but will still hold a limited strike on Thursday and Friday, a company official said.

The Korean Metal Workers' Union, which includes the auto industry unions, plan strikes for several days this week as part of protest against a U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement.

"The union decided not to stop work from Monday to Wednesday, but they will launch a partial strike on Thursday and on Friday," a Hyundai spokesman said by telephone.

Hyundai's union was not available for comments.

Earlier this month, union members at Hyundai and other auto makers had said they would join their umbrella group's decision to take turns by region in staging two-hour strikes daily from Monday to Wednesday.

All members of the metal union group will hold a four-hour strike on Thursday and a six-hour stoppage on Friday.

But many members of Hyundai's union have opposed the plan as the decision was made without a vote.

South Korea said it was set to take stern action on the strike saying the stoppages were illegal.

Hyundai also said the company would take necessary measures including legal steps if unionized workers launch strikes.

Unions at other auto makers were not available for comment on whether the Hyundai union's decision would have influence on their plans.

In 2006, Hyundai's union members staged strikes for a total of 33 days as they called for higher wages and better working conditions. Some of the protests were made in opposition to new labor laws and free-trade talks with the United States.

Those actions cost Hyundai 115,683 units in lost output, or 1.6 trillion won ($1.72 billion), the company estimated.

Last year, South Korean automakers' unionized workers voted to bring their company unions under one industry group to strengthening their bargaining power.

Poor labor relations are seen as a major hurdle to Hyundai's target of becoming the world's No.5 automaker by sales volume along with Kia, from the current No.6.

In January, Hyundai's unionized workers held a partial strike and refused overtime over a bonus dispute.

On Friday, shares in Hyundai closed up 0.81 percent to 74,600 won, outperforming a 1.3 percent fall in the broader market.