The first labour walkout in four years is imminent at Hyundai Motor Group, as unionised workers are setting the stage for a strike, while the Korean carmaker came under greenwashing accusations in Germany for manipulating exhaust emissions, escalating the strain on the beleaguered carmaker amid dwindling sales.

The Korea Herald reported a 40,958 member union at the Hyundai Motor branch of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union under the Korean Confederation of Trade Union held a meeting today to decide on a plan for a strike, after about 71% of the members voted in support of a walkout last Friday.

The union move reportedly came as group sales dropped 7.6% to 1,877,193 units in the first half of this year compared to 2,031,185 units a year prior, amid a global automotive chip shortage. A recent cargo truckers nationwide strike also meant approximately 90,000 cars could not be produced in the first half of this year.

If the labour union goes on strike, it would be the first time in four years, the Korea Herald said.

A walkout was highly likely as a hard line union leader returned to the bargaining table after being newly picked as leader of the union in December last year. The group’s labour union reached settlements in 2019 and 2020 without disputes.

But a legal strike would be possible only if National Labour Relations Commission decided to discontinue arbitration, citing a huge gap between the union and management’s stances.

Since May, the union and management have held 12 rounds of negotiations for this year’s collective bargaining agreement. Major negotiation issues include an increase of monthly pay, incentives and a retirement age extension, among other issues, the newspaper said.

Separately, the Korean carmaker has come under fire for greenwashing accusations over the possible manipulation of its exhaust emissions test in Germany, the Korea Herald reported.

According to a report by Greenpeace, 10 combustion engine models, including the Santa Fe, Tucson, Sorento and i20, exceeded permitted nitrogen oxide emissions standards by at least 4.1 times and up to 11.2 times compared to the Euro 6 standard of 80 micrograms per kilometer, in a test conducted by the Federal Motor Transport Authority of Germany between 2015 and 2018.

The global environmental group criticised Hyundai Motor Group for the greenwashing behavior of acting like an eco-friendly company, instead manipulating exhaust levels to sell more combustion engine cars.

The report came a week after the Frankfurt prosecutors’ office in Germany raided the Korean carmaker’s eight offices in Germany and Luxembourg. German authorities are investigating Hyundai and Kia for selling around 210,000 vehicles in Germany that may have attached emissions manipulating devices.

The carmaker said it would comply with local authorities and provide explanations with sincerity, the Korea Herald added.