Hyundai Motor land bid sparks strikes, complicates labor talks

Wed Sep 24, 2014 1:37am EDT
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SEOUL (Reuters) - A $10 billion bid by Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS: Quote) and two affiliates for a plot of land in Seoul could delay resolution of perennially contentious wage talks, with auto workers angered by news of the deal striking for a second day on Wednesday.

The Hyundai-led group - which includes sister firms Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS: Quote) and Hyundai Mobis Co (012330.KS: Quote) - last week made a record $10 billion bid for land to house a headquarters, hotel and theme park complex, more than triple the property's appraised amount.

Shares in the three companies have since lost more than 10 percent.

This week's strike also comes as Hyundai and Kia are planning to build new factories in China and Mexico, closer to export markets and where wages are lower than in South Korea.

"Before the land bid, I expected Hyundai to reach a wage deal this week. But the land bid complicates wage talks," said Park Tae-ju, a professor at the Employment & Labor Training Institute, who previously advised the car company on its two-shift system.

"I expect the talks to drag on longer than expected," Park said.

Hyundai's 47,000 union workers in South Korea were on strike a second day on Wednesday over the land deal, while Kia's union also staged a partial strike.

Workers "are angered by the astronomical amount of money" to be spent on the land in the high-end Gangnam district of Seoul, Kia's union said.

"Chairman Chung Mong-koo should not be betting the future on land, but investing in people," Hyundai's union said in a newsletter.   Continued...

A visitor walks past a Hyundai Motor logo at a Hyundai dealership in Seoul April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji