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Kia workers in South Korea to stage protest over wages, EV plans

Unionized workers at Kia Motors in South Korea will introduce a partial strike on November 24 over wages and concerns about job security as the automaker pursues prepares to produce electric vehicles (EV), Kia’s union said on Thursday.

The union at South Korea’s No.2 automaker has made a decision to suspend work for a part of the day over November 24-27, a union official said, adding Kia’s plan to launch EV production is one of the thorny issues in the annual wage deal negotiations.

Kia has laid out strategies to produce an EV model comparable to its K7 sedan at one of the plants in its Hwaseong plant in South Korea starting July next year, the union official said.

“Building electric cars requires about 30% less labor than building internal combustion cars, because they require fewer parts, resulting in job losses,” a union member at Kia said.

“If the shift to electric cars is inevitable, we are asking the management to ensure longer-term job security by having EV module production lines at our plants,” the member added.

Kia said in September that it prepares to have eleven EVs by 2025 and have 25% of its worldwide sales in EVs by 2029.

Automakers around the world are broadening their electric vehicle production to comply with tougher air-pollution rules that need them to decrease carbon emissions or face stiff fines.

The union at Kia has also asked for an increase in wages and performance pay, but these have not been accepted by the company, said the union official.

Kia aims to freeze wages but has proposed a bonus and other advantages if the union does not strike, a company official said on condition of anonymity as negotiations remain ongoing.

The labor action at Kia comes even as the union at affiliate Hyundai Motor prevented a strike amid the coronavirus crisis.

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