Hyundai has often come across as one of the few major auto manufacturers that seemed to be relatively on the ball when it comes to plug-in electric vehicles. It appears, though, that union leaders at Hyundai aren’t too happy about that.
In an impressively vivid stream of words, the head of the largest union in South Korea (the Hyundai Motor union), Ha Bu-young, was recently quoted as saying: “Electric cars are disasters. They are evil. We are very nervous.”
Those comments are a reference to the “crisis” currently occurring at GM’s South Korean division — where the firm has already decided to close one factory and is now considering closing numerous others as well. But, perhaps more importantly, they are also a reference to the fact that all-electric cars don’t feature engines or transmissions, are far simpler to build, and require far less in the way of maintenance.
In a worst-case scenario, the Hyundai Motor union is apparently predicting that 70% of Hyundai’s jobs could be cut as the result of a fast transition to all-electric vehicles.
It’s already the case that some workers at Hyundai’s plants in South Korea have been asked to take longer holidays as of late, due to lagging demand for various models in the US, Bu-young was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“We’re feeling job anxiety. We’re feeling a sense of crisis,” he continued.
The Reuters coverage continues: “Ha said the union is studying how cars of the future might be built without slashing headcount and has proposed the automaker revive a committee to review the impact of new vehicles and new technology on jobs.
“He also noted that some 30,000 workers out of 50,000 union members will retire in 15 years, which could cushion the impact that cars of the future could have on staffing levels. … At GM’s South Korean unit, the threat of potential plant closures has led its union to offer to freeze wages and skip bonuses while about 15% of its employees have applied for a voluntary redundancy package. …
“Hyundai’s management has proposed the scaling back of some benefits such as free week-long trips to Europe for 500 workers annually as well as support for some employees’ sporting events — a proposal that the union plans to oppose, a union official said.”
Notably, the union is also, for the first time, seeking pay raises for temporary workers higher than those being sought for full-time workers — probably a sign of things to come.
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