Hyundai Motor on Thursday (24 November) said it planned to spend KRW300bn (US$260m) to implement a new production shift scheme from 2013 under which it would eliminate overnight work at its domestic factories.

The automaker will introduce a two-shift scheme running from early morning to around midnight, from the current system of day and overnight shifts, Reuters reported.

“We plan to implement the new shift system in 2013. Management is currently in talks with the labour union to finalise (the new system),” Hyundai said in a statement.

Officials at Hyundai Motor’s union said the company announced the plan unilaterally, without consulting the union.

Labour unions have long called for an end to overnight work, which they claim poses health risks, while carmakers have raised concerns about a new shift system potentially reducing production and requiring facility investments, Reuters noted.

The Korean government recently stepped up pressure on carmakers to scrap overnight shifts while the newly-elected leader of Hyundai Motor’s labour union pledged to eliminate overnight work next year.

Hyundai, the first South Korean carmaker to announce a timeline to phase out overnight work, said the new scheme would reduce its annual production capacity by 187,000 vehicles.

However, local media reported Hyundai and the union were close to agreeing to make up much of the lost production.

South Korean auto industry employees typically work for 2,400 hours a year, compared with General Motors’ 2,080 hours and Toyota’s 1,850 hours, according to data from South Korea’s labour ministry.