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Complete Strike Planned By Labor Union If GM Exits South Korea

Complete Strike Planned By Labor Union If GM Exits South Korea
The worker’s union at the South Korean factory of General Motors does not rule out the possibility of the American automaker leaving the country completely and has threatened to conduct a full strike if it actually does so.
Lim Han-taek, the head of the employee’s union at the GM factory which has 14,000 members, said that at present the union would pressurize the company to develop and present a comprehensive and complete plan for a turnaround for its South Korean operations which is making significant losses.
Last week, the U.S. automaker had declared its plans for the closure of its production unit at Gunsan, in southwest South Korea by May of this year and had said that it would take a decision about the fate of the other three production units in South Korea in a next few months. 
The company plans to take “important decisions” on its next steps by the end of February and till then it would have made “meaningful progress” in discussions and negotiations with its stakeholders which include the labor union and the government.
During a meeting earlier on Wednesday, hopes about the company being able to complete this year’s annual wage talks very soon was expressed by GM’s international operations head, Barry Engle, Lim said. But since the umbrella union would have to get a list of its demands, therefore it might not be possible for GM to initiate contract negotiations by mid-March, Lim said.
“The union will make some concessions, if needed, and the government will provide financial support to GM only if it presents a thorough turnaround plan,” he said.
Sources have said that GM is hoping to secure financial support and tax benefits from Seoul and as a part of that plan, the company has planned fresh investments and a debt-for-equity swap for the South Korea operations. But government help could only be ensured after an audit is conducted on the company and on its ‘opaque management’, Seoul has said.
The issue of a complete strike would be discussed in a day or two by the union, Lim said.
“We don’t want to go as far as a full strike,” he said, citing negative public views of South Korea’s auto unions.
“But if GM says it will completely withdraw from South Korea, we will down our tools. This will be over. When GM left other markets, they did so boldly. I hope that does not happen in South Korea.”
Even though GM has announced the production of two new models of cars by its South Korean business, Lim said that even that would not be enough for conducting a complete turnaround of the South Korean business.
It would be at least four years before production can be started for one of the proposed models which is a crossover model, Lim said. additionally, utilization rates cannot be revived by another proposed model which is the next-generation Trax SUV and it is slated to o into production by 2020.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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