GM Korea workers prepare to strike amid net losses
SEOUL-- Unionized workers at GM Korea Co., the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., said they will vote on whether to go on strike to press contract demands, corporate sources said Thursday as the company struggles with three straight years of losses.
The carmaker's 15,000-strong union arranged a walkout if ongoing negotiations with management break down.
"GM Korea workers will cast a vote by 2 p.m. Friday, and the results will be available at around 3:30 p.m.," the carmaker's union spokesman Dang Sung-geun told Yonhap News Agency by phone.
The labor union is demanding the company raise workers' monthly basic wages by 154,883 won (US$133) and 500 percent of the basic wage in bonuses -- demands that GM Korea deems excessive.
GM Korea offered an increase of 50,000 won in basic monthly salary and 9 million won in bonuses per worker, a company spokeswoman said.
GM, the Detroit-based parent company, is in the process of carrying out worldwide restructuring, and the Korean unit has consistently posted poor performances in recent years.
It posted net losses in the past three years -- 350 billion won in 2014, 986.8 billion won in 2015 and 631.4 billion won in 2016, due mainly to slowing global demand.
Other demands include the establishment of the so-called 8+8 shift system in which night-duty workers finish their day at 12:40 a.m., not 1:40 a.m. under the existing 8+9 system, the spokesman said.
"Last year, the company agreed to start the 8+8 system from June 1 this year, but we have had a meeting only once with the management to discuss follow-up steps to adopt the 8+8 system," Dang said.
The union wants to discuss the issue as well during this year's wage negotiations in order to introduce the system as agreed upon, he said.
GM Korea, which is 76.9 percent owned by GM, has three plants -- one each in Bupyeong, Gunsan and Changwon -- whose combined capacity reaches 750,000 vehicles.
For the whole of 2016, it sold 597,000 vehicles -- 180,000 domestically and 417,000 overseas -- down 4 percent from 622,000 a year earlier. Sales at the Korean unit accounted for 6 percent of GM's global sales of 9.96 million units last year, the company said.
In the January-June period this year, GM Korea's total sales fell 9.3 percent to 278,998 units from 307,512 in the year-ago period, it said.
Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Co. and its union are in wage talks while its sister company Kia Motors Corp.'s negotiations with its union have broken up due to wide gaps, a corporate spokesman said.
"Kia workers are in the process of staging a vote to strike as the wage talks are halted," the source said without elaborating.
Workers at Hyundai want their monthly salary to be marked up by 154,883 won and a bonus of 30 percent of the companies' net profit earned a year earlier. Kia workers also want an increase of 154,883 won in monthly salary and are demanding 30 percent of the company's operating profit earned last year.
SsangYong Motors Co. workers are also in talks with the management, asking for an increase of 118,000 won in monthly wages. Renault Samsung Motors Corp., which is in the initial stage of wage talks, didn't provide their demands.
Source: Yonhap News Agency