Union at Kia Corp suspends strike action to resume talks with company

SEOUL – Kia Corp’s union in South Korea said it would suspend for now a partial strike announced earlier on Wednesday to pursue more talks with the company.

The union and Kia’s management had been holding talks for three months over wage increases and an extension of the retirement age.

Earlier, the union said it would limit working hours for six working days from Oct. 12 after negotiations stalled, in what would have been the first industrial action at Kia in three years.

“We have decided to put a pause on the planned strike for tomorrow as we are having negotiations with the management,” an official at the Kia union told Reuters, adding that the union would decide the next step after talks with the company.

Kia declined to comment on the industrial action.

The Kia union is seeking a minimum basic monthly pay increase of 184,900 won ($138.12), a performance pay equating to 30% of Kia’s 2022 net profit as well as an increase to the retirement age to 64 from 60 and a 4-day work week.

Last month, the union at South Korea’s second largest automaker with more than 26,600 members said 92.3% of its members had approved strike action unless the management accepts their demands.

The labour action at Kia comes as the union at affiliate Hyundai Motor Co avoided a strike after the union and the management last month sealed a deal set to boost annual pay by about 12%.

Because the deals with Hyundai Motor and affiliate Hyundai Mobis were concluded without any industrial action, Kia’s unions are likely to avoid any major industrial action, analysts said.

“For now, Kia is the only one that plans to go on an actual strike… this is unlikely to give much momentum for Kia to carry intense strikes or go on for too long by itself,” said Lee Jae-il, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities.

Shares in Kia Corp closed up 0.5%, versus the benchmark KOSPI’s 2% rise.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Miral Fahmy)