The power of labor-management harmony December 23rd, 2008
By Yun Tae Kim
Assistant Manager, Labor Relations Planning Team
A warm breeze is sweeping through labor-management relations at Kia Motors.
Many Kia employees and customers abroad may harbor some concerns that labor relations at Kia Motors are marred by conflict and struggle. Well, that has been true to a certain extent, but there may no longer be need to worry anymore, as labor and management recently made important progress in forging a more cooperative relationship.
For one, we concluded and announced a new labor-management accord on December 4th. Under the agreement, we decided to set up a flexible production system and adopt a “mixed production” structure that will enable us to quickly and effectively respond to market demands. This has allowed Kia to concentrate on compact cars, which are enjoying a rise in demand amidst the recent global economic turmoil. Thanks to the mixed production scheme and spirit of cooperation, the Rio compact passenger car began to be manufactured at Sohari Plant #1 for the first time ever on December 12. The plant is actually the production base for the Carnival (also known as Sedona) minivan.
The accord is also significant in that labor and management agreed to work together to overcome the economic crisis. The agreement is particularly meaningful, considering the usual hardliner stance of auto workers unions. This significant shift in labor relations is also evident in recent extensive media coverage which has included many positive articles on Kia’s labor-management ties.
Another notable sign of improved relations is joint volunteer activities conducted by labor and management. On December 5th, the two sides jointly donated funds and provisions worth 150 million won (approx. US$116,000) to people facing financial hardship. Representatives from both sides visited the homes of the needy to personally deliver coal briquettes, ramen, rice and other staples. They say the joint undertaking was a rewarding experience.
This is just the beginning and much more remains to be done. Still, the combined effort by labor and management to tackle the current crisis and joint social contribution activities will contribute to advancing Kia Motors. To go from a good company to a great company, we have to set a good example in labor-management relations and social contribution, in addition to securing the basic competencies as an automaker.
Although the auto industry is facing an uncertain future due to the global economic slump, everyone at Kia believes we can overcome this crisis and become a world leading car maker. That’s because every one of us at Kia, including union members, are fulfilling their respective roles to fuel the continued growth of Kia Motors.
Let’s have faith in Kia’s future. And let’s create a “new Kia.”