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Hyundai Motor workers protest over bonus payments

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Riot police were deployed at Hyundai Motor Co.'s headquarters in Seoul on Wednesday as around 1,000 workers held a largely peaceful protest amid a dispute with management over bonuses.

The head of the company's labour union also threatened future strikes as protesters chanted and carried banners with slogans including ``Drop the lawsuit'' and ``Down with Chung Mong-gu,'' referring to Hyundai's chairman.

The protesters from Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. were outnumbered by beefed up security at the site, which included around 2,000 riot police and about 200 of Hyundai's own security personnel.

The company boarded up its first-floor windows in anticipation of the demonstration and riot police used shipping containers and reinforced buses to keep protesters at bay.

Hyundai's strike-prone union has refused to work overtime since late last month after workers received a bonus equal to one month's salary, which they say is less than agreed.

Hyundai on Monday launched legal action against the union, seeking one billion won (US$1.06 million) from the organization and 27 of its leaders for refusing to work overtime.

The company says the negotiated bonus total was based on an incentive to reach the company's 2006 production target and since that was not achieved because of strikes the payment was reduced.

``We asked the labour union to stop the unjustified demand on the year-end bonuses and immediately return to the production line'' for overtime work, Hyundai Motor said in a statement.

The company called for ``a new beginning of labour-management relations in which rules and regulations are duly observed.''

However, Hyundai Motor Worker's Union president Park Yoo-ki said the union was planning ``partial strikes during regular working hours if the management does not listen to our requests.

``Full-fledged strikes at seven local plants are also being considered.''

Labour troubles are a near-constant headache for Hyundai, which in tandem with Kia has ambitions to become the world's fifth-largest automaker by 2010.

Through 2006, the company union has gone on strike every year but one since it was established in 1987. A lengthy walkout last summer was the company's second costliest ever.

Tensions over the latest dispute boiled over last week when workers scuffled with company officials at an annual New Year's ceremony at its main factory in Ulsan, 415 kilometres southeast of Seoul.

Hyundai president Youn Yeo-chul, who is also the top official at the factory, suffered minor cuts and bruises and had his glasses broken.

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Hyundai Motor workers protest over bonus payments
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