GM Korea's labour union, which is in wage and collective bargaining negotiations with management, was set to stage another four day partial strike starting today (Tuesday 17 November), adding to the uncertainties facing the automaker as it struggles with weak performance.
According to the Korea Herald, the union said Monday it had decided at a central dispute committee meeting to stage a four hour partial strike from Tuesday to Friday. This would will be the fourth partial strike in this year's wage negotiation process.
Last week, GM Korea said it was reconsidering its planned investment in its Bupyeong plant in Incheon in response to continued strike action by its unionised workers over wages. The company had been planning to invest in the production of a new model for local sale and export.
The Korea Herald said the automaker's labour and management representatives had held 24 rounds of wage negotiations this year, but failed to find a point of contact. Partial strikes held on eight days over the past two months were estimated to have caused production losses equivalent to about 12,000 vehicles.
The management proposed to extend the wage negotiation cycle to two years this time only and to pay KRW8m (US$7,229), including incentives, to each member.
However, the union opposes the extension of the negotiation cycle and demands three things: an increase in the base salary of KRW123,304 won per month, an annual bonus of 400% of ordinary wages plus KRW6m, and the allocation of new cars to the company's second plant in Bupyeong, Incheon.
Bupyeong Plant No. 2 is scheduled to produce the Trax compact SUV and Malibu sedan by July 2022. But if these vehicles are discontinued, there are no additional production plans. The management proposed to produce derivatives of a crossover utility vehicle at Bupyeong Plant No. 1 but the union's position is that the company cannot be trusted unless a specific new car model and allocation volume are confirmed.
The paper said the union has been boycotting overtime work since 23 October and has been staging partial strikes since 30 October. This month, four-hour strikes have been held on 6, 9 and 10 November.
As the workers continued to refuse to work overtime last month, the nation's auto industry production fell 4.3% year on year, according to the industry ministry. In October, GM Korea output fell about 7,000 units year on year, accounting for 45.7% of the total output decrease, the report said.
An industry ministry official told the Korea Herald: "The overall auto production decreased due to the labour-management conflict in GM Korea and a two day reduction of working days due to the Chuseok holiday."
The paper noted GM Korea was loss making for six consecutive years as of last year. It posted a net loss of KRW859.3bn in 2018, and its loss reached KRW320.2bn last year.
Amid the labour disputes and weak earnings, rumors of GM Korea pulling out of the market are resurfacing, the Korea Herald said.
GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem said in September last year that, if the labour-management conflict worsens, GM headquarters will also consider withdrawing from Korea. He added GM's refusal to withdraw from the Korean market is possible only if labour-management relations get back to normal.