Image: South Korea Hyundai Strike
Lee Sang-hyun  /  AP
Hyundai Motor President Youn Yeo-chul, left, talks with Lee Sang-wook, the union's president, right, as Youn visits the union's office in Ulsan, south of Seoul, South Korea, Friday.
updated 8/31/2007 1:48:34 PM ET 2007-08-31T17:48:34

The head of Hyundai Motor Co.'s union exhorted members Friday to vote in favor of a strike amid an impasse with management over annual wage negotiations.

"I hope you can express your steadfast will to fight," Lee Sang-wook, the union's president, told members in a statement posted on its Web site. "Let's express our rage with an unanimous landslide vote against the company that has cheated more than 44,000 union members."

The union's 44,227 members were voting Friday on the strike plan. Balloting closed in the early afternoon, though the results were not expected until early Saturday.

Ki Jin-ho, a Hyundai spokesman, said the company was watching the vote.

"We need to see the result," he said.

Ki also said that the two sides had scheduled an 11th round of formal negotiations for the coming Monday.

Strikes at Hyundai are common. Workers have already walked off the job twice this year. The union has gone on strike every year but one since it was founded in 1987.

This year's tensions come at a sensitive time. A Seoul court is set next week to issue a ruling on an appeal by Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo against his three-year prison term for embezzlement.

Chung, who is free on bail, is actively running the world's sixth-largest automaker. He was sentenced earlier this year.

The union and management remain far apart despite 10 formal negotiating sessions so far.

The company has offered a 5.4 percent increase, or 78,000 won (US$83; euro61) more a month in basic salary, while the union is seeking an 8.9 percent hike.

Hyundai has also offered an incentive of three months of pay and a bonus of 1 million won (US$1,065) if the company meets annual business targets.

The union wants the automaker to pay 30 percent of its 2007 net profit to union members as bonuses and to raise the retirement age to 60 from 58.

Yoon Yeo-cheol, the president of Hyundai Motor's plant in Ulsan, 415 kilometers (260 miles) southeast of Seoul, paid a visit Friday to the union's Lee, urging dialogue, spokesmen for the company and union said.

Lee replied that the union was in favor of dialogue, but that the key to a favorable result was in the hands of management.

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