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Kia Motors unionists vote to strike over pay

Unionized workers at Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-largest automaker, voted Wednesday in favor of a strike over pay, lending support to their leaders in wage negotiations down the road.

In a vote asking some 34,000 unionists whether to go on strike,

72.8 percent, or 22,700 out of 31,163 who cast ballots, voted yes, according to the labor union. It was held Wednesday afternoon at each office and plant located throughout the country. 

The vote came after the labor and management could not produce a breakthrough in their negotiations, which led the former to declare a breakup in talks last week and decide to ask its members to lay down their tools in protest.

 A strike would represent the fourth consecutive year of labor disputes at the automaker. Labor reportedly is demanding a 159,900 won ($135) hike in its base salary.

The Kia unionists could legally go on a strike from possibly early next week if no further progress is made between them and the management through the government-led arbitration committee.

Last week, unionized workers at Hyundai Motor Co, an affiliate of Kia Motors, voted in favor of a strike after they failed to iron out differences with the management over a wage hike and other working conditions. 

A Hyundai Motor official told Yonhap News Agency that progress has been made in ongoing negotiations and the management is seeking to reach a deal with the labor before the Chuseok holiday that starts later next week.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, the country's two largest carmakers, are struggling to meet their annual sales target for this year in the face of tough market conditions at home and abroad. Sales have been falling in the face of fierce competition and the overall downturn in emerging markets.

According to their latest data, the combined sales of the two carmakers during the first eight months of this year shrank 3 percent on-year to around 5.1 million units. (Yonhap)