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GM Korea workers stage a four-hour walkout

Sept 21,2019
GM Korea’s union went on a partial strike for four hours Friday, after another round of failed wage talks the previous day.

The union is also considering boycotting sales of GM cars imported from the United States and not produced here, if the talks remains deadlocked.

Company management and the union met Thursday in Incheon for the ninth round of wage negotiations, but they failed to reach an agreement.

The union, which already went on full strike for three days from Sept. 9 to 11, decided to walk out for four hours Friday and six hours from next Tuesday through Friday.

The union has been requesting a 5.65 percent increase in base pay as well as a bonus payment of 250 percent of ordinary wages plus 6.5 million won ($5,461). It is also seeking guarantees that GM Korea’s Bupyeong 2 plant keeps operating.

GM Korea currently makes cars in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, and Bupeyong, Incheon. Bupyeong has two operating facilities.

The company declined to offer the wage increase, citing sluggish performance.

As for the future of the Bupyeong 2 plant, a spokesperson from the union said the company “did not provide plans to allocate new vehicles to produce at the plant after 2022, meaning it would close it down from that point.”

The spokesperson added if the company continues to ignore its requests, the union will boycott sales of cars imported and not produced domestically. The cars likely subject to the boycott are the Colorado and Traverse.

Of 11 different cars sold through GM Korea, six - the Impala, Bolt, Camaro, Equinox, Colorado and Traverse - are imported. Locally produced cars include the Spark, Malibu, Trax, Damas and Labo.

“It’s a protest against company management to come up with a sustainable plan for workers and our business,” the spokesperson from GM Korea union said. “We have already seen through history that imported cars have not achieved good sales in Korea, and if they will not be produced here, we’d rather not have those cars further damage our business.”

A GM Korea spokesperson said the company has plans to produce two new cars domestically, one next year at the Bupyeong 1 plant and the other in 2023 in Changwon. Until then, it is helpful to have imported cars in the sales portfolio.

The union, however, pointed out that as there is no new production plan for the Bupyeong 2 plant, that still means a huge layoff is scheduled after three years for workers at that plant. The plant will be producing the Malibu and Trax SUV through 2022.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]