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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hyundai’s workers vote to strike for first time in five years

A Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicle is displayed at the India Auto Expo in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India, on Jan. 11.  (Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)
By Heejin Kim Bloomberg

Hyundai’s union workers voted to go on strike for the first time in five years, part of an effort to boost wages and raise the mandatory retirement age as inflation hits the South Korean economy.

A majority of the roughly 45,000 unionized workers at Hyundai voted to strike, officials said in a text message on Friday.

The group, a branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, will discuss when the strike will start and how long it will last on Aug. 30.

In all, 97% of Hyundai’s union workers cast ballots, with 92% of them supporting the strike plan.

The union’s decision to launch its own strike for the first time since 2018 comes after the nation’s largest automaker posted its highest quarterly profit in history, following record 2022 earnings, thanks to the popularity of its electric vehicles.

Production from Hyundai’s South Korean plants accounted for 46% of its 2022 revenue, according to a company filing.

Strikes are on the rise globally as worker pay fails to keep pace with the soaring cost of living, driven by inflation and rising interest rates.

Last month, South Korea’s largest umbrella union for 180,000 metal workers staged a one-day strike, which Hyundai’s union joined.

Hyundai’s union is demanding a 184,900 won ($139) monthly hike in base salary, a bonus of at least 30% of Hyundai’s net income for 2023 and an increase in the retirement age to 64 from 60 now.

It also wants to produce more of the company’s EVs and batteries in South Korea.