Blog: Dave LeggettKorean strikes

Dave Leggett | 8 August 2003

South Korea's car unions have a reputation for being a bit stroppy so it's no surprise today to learn Kia's workers plan a strike for more pay and one work day less - the exact same issue it just took their counterparts at parent Hyundai Motor seven weeks to sort out.

That settlement, some observers say, took Korean car worker pay remarkably close to US levels. The American United Auto Workers union is hunkered down with the car makers right now and is reportedly more realistic than expected over such tricky issues as healthcare and plant closures.

The Koreans would be wise, perhaps, to do likewise. The Hyundai strike apparently didn't hit its profits but, long-term, the unions' reputations for British Leyland-like militancy and demands for unrealistic pay deals could hurt Korean cars' competitiveness worldwide.

If that happens, another (much) lower labour cost car building country is quietly growing expertise and acquiring plants and technology - another Honda joint venture today, in fact. They call it China.
Graeme Roberts


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