Hyundai, Kia workers rank near top in salary but lag in productivity

SEOUL, Aug. 22 (Yonhap) -- Employees at Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. are receiving the top salaries in South Korea's industrial circles, but their labor productivity is rated as below average, data showed Thursday.

The world's fifth-largest auto manufacturer paid an annual average salary of 94 million won (US$84,041) last year, the second highest out of 365 listed firms that had completed their required regulatory filing, according to the data compiled by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

Its smaller affiliate came in third with an annual average salary of 91 million won, FSS data showed.

But the productivity of each staff at the two major South Korean automakers ranked 177th and 179th, respectively, drawing a contrast to their high wages.

The data was released as unionized workers at Hyundai and Kia are threatening to walk out in demand of steep hikes in wages and compensation.

Hyundai's union is demanding, among other things, a hike of 130,498 won (US$117) in basic salaries and a one-year extension of the retirement age to 61, as well as a performance-based bonus equal to 30 percent of the company's net profit last year that reached 9 trillion won. It also calls for 10 million won each for workers' children who choose to enter the workforce instead of going to college.

Labor disputes at Hyundai Motor have been an almost annual event in the past two decades. Its workers have downed tools every year since 1986 except for in 1994, 2009, 2010 and 2011. A strike last year cost the carmaker some 1.7 trillion won in lost production.

Kia's union has gone on strike every year except in 2010 and 2011 since 1999, when the country's No. 2 carmaker was taken over by Hyundai following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

According to the FSS data, an index measuring a carmaker's productivity, known as hour-per-vehicle (HPV), came in at 30.7 hours for Hyundai Motor, which lagged behind those of global rivals.

General Motors Co. logged 20.6 hours, followed by Toyota with 27.6 hours and Honda with 26.9 hours.

Market experts said such data reflects the need for the two carmakers to revamp their inefficient production systems in order to maintain global competitiveness.

Besides automakers, SK Innovation, a leading oil refiner, trumped others with the highest level of per-capita productivity. Top mobile carrier SK Telecom ranked first with the highest annual salary of an average 98 million won, according to the data.

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