Hyundai Motor’s union chief warned its employees may have to deal with similar crisis to the one hitting General Motors’ South Korean unit as sales in key markets slip, adding that electric cars were ‘evil’ and will ruin jobs.
South Korea’s auto industry, known for its robust unions whose employees tend to be paid more and have more benefits than their compatriots in other sectors, has come to a crossroads.
Blaming high labor costs and decreasing sales, General Motors plans to close one of its plants in the country by May and is looking for options for its three other plants.
“We’re feeling job anxiety. We’re feeling a sense of crisis,” Ha Bu-young, the head of the Hyundai Motor union, South Korea’s biggest and most powerful union, informed Reuters during an interview last week.
He stated that at three of Hyundai’s five plants in Ulsan, the world’s biggest car factory complex, employees had been asked to take longer holidays as sales of sedans and older model SUVs like the Santa Fe slip in the United States and other countries.
Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors were also negatively impacted by diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Beijing last year, resulting in a slump in sales in the world’s biggest vehicle market. The two automakers have flagged only modest global sales growth in this year.
Longer term, Ha fears the advent of electric cars, which when they go mainstream could cause trouble on standard auto jobs as they need far fewer engine and transmission parts.
Hyundai’s union has predicted a strong shift into electric vehicles could result in a loss in 70 percent of Hyundai jobs.
“Electric cars are disasters. They are evil. We are very nervous,” he stated.