Hyundai to set up auto parts plant in U.S. amid labor strike

By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Group, the world's fifth-largest carmaker, has decided to set up an auto parts plant in the United States, an official said Friday, as its unionized workers were to stage another partial strike over wage dispute.

Hyundai Dymos Inc. plans to break ground on its US$35 million plant near its sister company Kia Motors' assembly plant in Georgia in October, a Hyundai official said.

Hyundai Dymos, which makes transmissions and seats for passenger cars, plans to hire about 350 Americans at its first U.S. plant, according to the Hyundai official. He asked not to be identified, citing policy.

In Atlanta, a Georgia official told Yonhap News Agency by phone that Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo made the decision just before he met with Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia in Seoul.

Hyundai confirmed that Chung met with Deal in Seoul on Wednesday ahead of Deal's trip to China and Japan between Thursday and next Friday, though it declined to give any further details of the meeting.

An email seeking comment from Deal was not returned on Friday.

Also Friday, Hyundai's 46,000 union workers staged another partial strike, a day after their leaders failed to work out differences with the management over the latest wage dispute.

The workers in the morning shift were to down tools for four hours starting 11:30 a.m. while those in the afternoon shift plan to walk off the job between 8:10 p.m. and 12:10 a.m., according to a Hyundai official.

Union spokesman Kwon Oh-il has said the union workers will also stage an eight hour strike on Monday, a day before resuming negotiations with the management.

The union and the management have been at odds over the union's demand that calls for, among other things, a performance-based bonus equal to 30 percent of the company's net profit last year, which reached 9 trillion won (US$8 billion).

The union also called for 10 million won each for workers' children who choose to seek employment instead of going to college, as well as a hike of 130,498 won in basic salaries and a one-year extension of the retirement age to 61.

Hyundai workers launched a partial strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, costing the carmaker 85.6 billion won in lost production.

Labor disputes at Hyundai Motor have been an almost annual event in the past two decades. Its workers have downed their 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.

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