Hyundai union rejects plan to cut work force by 18% Strike is threatened unless company relents; Automobiles


SEOUL -- Hyundai Motor Co.'s 30,000-member labor union yesterday rejected plans by Korea's biggest automobile manufacturer to cut 18 percent of its work force, threatening a three-day strike next week unless the company relents.

"The company is threatening the lives of workers by unilaterally pushing ahead with massive job cuts," said Seo Hyung Rak, a union leader at Hyundai Motor's Ulsan plant.

The standoff underscores how difficult it is for South Korean companies, which must cut costs to survive the country's first recession in 18 years, to slash their work forces. The International Monetary Fund made easier layoff procedures a condition of the $60 billion bailout it arranged for the country last year after its currency collapsed, debt ballooned and bankruptcies multiplied.

About 40 union leaders staged a protest inside Hyundai Motor headquarters in Ulsan yesterday and a larger rally was planned for later.

Company management submitted plans to dismiss as many as 8,189 workers to union leaders Tuesday even as the union requested that a civil court mediate talks between them.

A company spokesman said Hyundai's factories in Ulsan continued to operate despite protests, even though about 60 percent of the production lines are already idle because of mounting stockpiles.

"We will pursue talks with the labor union to hammer out a compromise," said the spokesman.

Pub Date: 5/21/98

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