Unionised workers at GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. reportedly walked off the job on Wednesday in the latest in a rash of summer strikes that has prompted government warnings of a crackdown.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the strikes – subway workers also struck though non-union staff kept trains running – come at a sensitive time because of signs that the domestic economy is struggling despite booming exports.

The GM-Daewoo workers went on strike to press demands that include a 16.6% salary increase, AP noted.

On Wednesday, state prosecutors reportedly said they would seek warrants for the arrest of leaders of the strikes on the subway and at oil company LG Caltex, which are illegal. South Korean law bars any strike called during a 15-day mediation period with the government, AP said.

The news agency added that the South Korean government typically promotes a negotiated end to union actions – even if they are illegal – to avert further unrest, but has in the past used police to break up strikes.

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AP said that the annual wave of labour actions – considered a major obstacle to President Roh Moo-hyun’s efforts to attract foreign investment – are concentrated during the summer as most companies and unions begin wage negotiations in the spring. Roh, a former lawyer who defended labour activists, reportedly has been accused of being too sympathetic to union demands.

In addition to a wage increase, members of the Daewoo Automobile Labour Union are demanding reduced working hours, company officials told the Associated Press – the strike by 2,700 workers affected the company’s Changwon and Gunsan plants, and unionists planned to continue the stoppage through Thursday though this strike is not illegal.