Hyundai Motor workers have elected a militant labor activist as their new union leader, a move that could set the stage for tough negotiations with the company's management over wages and benefits this year.
Ha Bu-young won the support of 46.5 percent of the 50,780-member union in a vote Friday in Ulsan, defeating former union leader Moon Yong-moon, according to the union. Ulsan is home to Hyundai's main assembly plants, located some 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
Ha has vowed to take action while putting the union's relations with the management on an equal footing and getting the union's voice heard.
The company had no comment on Ha's election.
South Korea's largest carmaker and the union have said the wage talks -- suspended due to the union election -- are expected to resume in late October.
The union demands the company raise workers' basic monthly wages by 154,883 won (US$135) and offer a bonus of 30 percent of the company's full-year net profit earned in 2016.
Citing an unfriendly business environment, the company had offered to raise basic salaries by 42,879 won per month and offer 200 percent of basic pay plus 1 million won as an extra bonus.
As the offer was rejected by the union, the company suggested 250 percent of basic pay plus 1.5 million won extra in a revised offer.
Unionized workers at Hyundai Motor staged partial strikes in August that cost the company about 620 billion won in lost production.
Labor strikes have plagued Hyundai Motor for decades. Its workers have walked out every year since 1986 except for in 1994, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Hyundai Motor's second-quarter operating profit tumbled 23.7 percent on-year to 1.34 trillion won, with its bottom line plunging 48.2 percent to 913.6 billion won. It marks the first time in 2010 that its quarterly net profit has fallen below the 1 trillion-won mark.
The decline came as Hyundai Motor's sales in China have been hit hard by the ongoing row between Seoul and Beijing over South Korea's deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system here.
In the January-July period, Hyundai saw its sales plunge 41 percent to 351,292 units in China -- the world's biggest automobile market -- from 592,785 a year earlier. ULSAN, (Yonhap)