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Workers cross pickets at Renault Samsung strike

Concerns over future of plant have raised doubts over walk out
June 07,2019
Conflict between labor and management over wage negotiations at Renault Samsung Motors took a turn on Wednesday as some workers refused the union’s call to strike.

Renault Samsung Motors said Thursday that its plant in Busan remained partially operational a day earlier despite the union’s decision to boycott production.

The union’s move came as talks broke down over the management’s offer on wages and working conditions, escalating the situation from the previous measure of partial strikes during certain hours of the day.

Although negotiations reached a tentative agreement last month, workers voted to reject the deal a week later. Under the agreement, each Busan plant worker was to be paid 1 million won ($837) in bonuses and a 35,000 won raise in monthly meal stipends, as well as a performance-based pay of 10.76 million won.

The automaker’s only plant in the southern port city employs around 2,300 workers.

The latest disagreement suggests tension within the union over the handling of the drawn-out negotiation process.

Renault Samsung Motors explained that its plant will likely be operational on Friday, despite the union decision.

“Around half of employees continued working at the factory on Wednesday,” said a Renault Samsung Motors spokesperson. “There are even some at the factory today working overtime … we expect the plant to be partly operational on Friday.

“There is a concern that the union leadership is making a rash decision, leading to worries on the future of the company.”

Talks will continue despite the union decision, according to the automaker.

The disagreement between labor and management goes back to June last year when wage negotiations first began.

The automaker’s labor union, previously known for being cooperative with management compared to other local automakers, has conducted partial strikes since last October as negotiations stalled. This has led to production losses of over 14,000 vehicles as of April, according to the automaker.

As its factory’s utilization rate fell by more than 20 percent, the automaker temporarily suspended operations on May 24 and 31. The automaker has also revised this year’s production target from 200,000 units to 160,000 units.

Reduced orders this year for the Nissan Rogue SUV, which accounted for nearly half of total sales at around 220,000 units in 2018, have also weighed on the plant’s production volume.

Nissan decided to cut orders for the Rogue from the Busan plant by 40 percent this year from the previous year.

Management has attempted to win back trust from workers by outlining future car development plans such as the XM3 SUV.

Renault Samsung Motors’ sales between January and May this year fell 35.5 percent to 67,158 units from 104,097 units posted in the same period last year.

Exports dropped 45.6 percent over the same period.


BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]