[THE INVESTOR] The labor union of GM Korea will hold multiple strikes this week with no end in sight for the US automaker’s plant closedown debacle.
According to the labor union‘s website on March 5, the members will be holding a press conference in front of Korea Development Bank’s head office in Yeouido, western Seoul at 10 a.m. on March 6, to be followed by requests for meetings with representatives of the bank, the National Tax Service and the National Assembly.
They will concurrently stage a one-man rally in front of these three institutions as well as at the US Embassy in central Seoul.
The labor union said their demands include reversing the shutdown of the Gunsan plant, allowing the union to participate in due diligence, carrying out of a special tax audit and enacting a law to prevent a possible “dine and dash.”
GM Korea officials said that they were currently requesting the fourth round of a wage negotiation with the labor union, possibly on March 7, but that the date has not been settled yet.
Meanwhile, rumors continued to circulate that following the shutdown of the Gunsan plant in North Jeolla Province last month due to low operating rate, GM may close more underperforming plants here.
Sales at GM Korea’s Changwon plant in South Gyeongsang Province have slid some 40 percent over the past four years, sparking concerns that the US headquarters may close the facility if a new model is not allocated for production this month.
“If GM headquarters allocates a new model in Changwon, the productions would begin in two to three years. GM’s production allocation is a crucial factor that will decide the future of the Changwon factory,” said Lee Ho-geun, a professor of automotive engineering at Daeduk University.
Compact car Spark as well as small commercial vehicles Damas and Labo are produced at the Changwon factory, which has an operating rate of about 70 percent, according to the company.
Some 2,000 workers work at the Changwon factory making 60 vehicles per hour.
Despite stable operating capacity at the factory, domestic and overseas sales of Spark, Damas and Labo have been slashed by 40 percent to 150,000 units last year from 250,000 units in 2013.
GM International President Barry Engle had said the headquarters will review allocating a cross utility vehicle at the Changwon plant and a sport utility vehicle at the Bupyeong plant during his visit to Korea last month.
Production allocation, however, is not set in stone as Engle’s remarks were made under the premise that GM Korea and the labor union would show efforts to tighten their belts during his visit to Korea last month.
As its first step to turn around annual operating loss of some 750 billion won, GM Korea had received voluntary resignations until March 2, which some 2,500 workers signed up for.
The third round of wage negotiation at GM Korea had failed without consensus last week.
By Kim Bo-gyung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)