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GM union votes to strike over R&D center plan

Oct 17,2018
GM Korea’s labor union voted to strike in opposition of the U.S. headquarters’ decision to establish a separate R&D and design center here on Tuesday.

Some 78 percent of the union agreed to stage a walkout in a vote that took place on Monday and Tuesday.

The union now only needs the approval of the National Labor Relations Commission to go on strike. The commission’s decision is likely to come out next week.

The U.S. auto giant has been pushing to separate R&D and design from production, claiming it will help raise the stance of GM Korea among its global affiliates and improve work efficiency. The labor union and GM Korea’s second-largest shareholder, the Korea Development Bank (KDB), opposed the idea, saying it could lead to a walkout.

GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem sent a letter to employees on Monday to convince them it was a good idea.

“The establishment of a dedicated GM Korea Technical Center is an important development in continuing our organization,” said Kazem in a written letter, adding that the new center would help to “more effectively respond to and secure and execute global engineering projects.”

GM Korea is scheduled to hold a board meeting on Friday where the decision to build a separate R&D center will be voted on.

KDB recently filed an injunction against the meeting, and the court’s decision “is expected to come no later than Friday,” a KDB official said.

GM Korea is waiting for the court’s decision, according to an official.

Kazem, in a letter, played down the emerging rumor of the company’s withdrawal from Korea.

“GM has already shown its support with approximately 6,860 billion won [$6 billion] investment to normalize GM Korea’s operations,” Kazem said.

“[It has also] allocated new important product development programs and product volumes. This is a significant commitment to our future.”

GM Korea appeared to come close to withdrawing from Korea earlier this year when the U.S. headquarters abruptly shut down one of the Korean unit’s biggest production lines located in Gunsan, North Jeolla. After a month-long tug-of-war with the Korean government and the union, GM and the government jointly decided to inject 7.7 trillion won to save the ailing unit. It also promised to stay in Korea for the next 10 years.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]