GM's South Korean workers plan full strike over stalled wage talks

Union rejects GM’s proposal for a base wage freeze and no bonuses

SEOUL — General Motors Co’s (GM.N) unionized workers in South Korea will strike Monday to Wednesday over stalled wage talks and concern of another plant shutdown, union officials said on Friday, the first full walkout since GM bought local factories in 2002.

The decision came after the union rejected GM’s proposal for a base wage freeze and no bonuses for a second year in a row.

Last year, the government injected 850 billion won ($712.85 million) into the money-losing unit after the U.S. automaker considered pulling out of the country. GM shut one of its four Korean factories following its pullback from major export market Europe and cut around 3,000 jobs.

The government at the time said the injection would keep GM in South Korea for at least another 10 years. Even so, union officials continue to be concerned about further closures and job losses.

GM has not offered any production plan for No.2 plant in the city of Bupyeong after 2022, union officials said.

GM Korea has said it will shift production of its Trax crossover to the plant from another nearby factory starting late this year. It did not provide longer term plan when contacted by Reuters.

On Monday, Hyundai Motor Co’s unionized workers in South Korea voted to accept the lowest bonus offered in nearly two decades, with the union mindful of GM’s restructuring and a trade dispute with Japan clouding the economic outlook.

“What crazy person will stage a full strike for three days under this economic situation? We are going on a strike because we are desperate,” said a GM Korea union leadership official.

“We are fine with no wages, but we want to hear GM’s vision about the Korean unit,” said the official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

GM said it aims to break even in Korea this year for which it needs union cooperation.

“It is unfortunate that the union decided to go on strike. The company has been delivering on commitments and we ask the union to do the same for the future of GMK,” GM Korea (GMK) said in a statement on Monday.

GM began production in South Korea after buying assets of failed local automaker Daewoo Motor in 2002. It has since only suffered partial strikes, with workers walking out for several hours during annual wage talks. Monday would mark the first time GM’s Korean plants will be idle for a full day due to a labor dispute.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin.

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