Unionized workers at Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. will stage a partial strike this week to protest a revised retirement program and possible unpaid leave of idle employees, a union official said Monday.
The unionized workers are set to down their tools at a shipyard in the industrial city of Ulsan, about 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul, for four hours on Wednesday, the union official said. He said some 150 workers will travel to Seoul to engage in a protest rally.
The company expressed regret over the planned strike at a time when it is focusing on normalizing its businesses amid dwindling orders.
On Friday, Hyundai Heavy President and CEO Kang Hwan-goo warned that the company may not keep the offshore business unless employees make sacrifices and concessions, apparently referring to the retirement program and unpaid leave.
The world’s biggest shipbuilder by sales halted work at its offshore facilities in August after orders dried up. The company and union have been at odds over how to address the large number of idle workers at the offshore division.
Hyundai Heavy has 15,795 employees, and among them, 2,400 belong to the offshore division.
So far, about 80 workers in the offshore division applied for a retirement program, the union said. Hyundai Heavy has asked the labor relations commission in Ulsan to decide whether the company can introduce unpaid leave for idle employees.
The commission — which is responsible for mediating and adjudicating labor disputes — is set to decide next week whether to accept the company’s request for unpaid leave.
The latest trouble follows a series of offshore projects in recent years where Hyundai Heavy has lost out to Chinese and Singaporean rivals due to higher costs.
Labor costs of Chinese and Singaporean companies are roughly 32 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of Hyundai Heavy’s costs according to the Korean shipbuilder.