Suspicions About Union ThinkingManagement and unionists at Daewoo Motor Co. agreed on a restructuring plan Monday, finding a path to recovery at the precipice of liquidation. After the refusal by Daewoo unionists to accept job cuts, the company was declared bankrupt on Nov. 8. Although the company applied for court receivership, its acceptance seemed unlikely without the union''s agreement and it appeared that liquidation was the only option left.
It is fortunate that Daewoo Motor''s union members have agreed in principle to massive job cuts. Although the Daewoo Motor case has undoubtedly taken a step toward settlement, we believe that this agreement does not guarantee the rescue of Daewoo Motor, and many difficulties still lie ahead. We wonder if the union really means to accept the restructuring plan or whether violent strikes are still in the offing.
The agreement does not mention the timing or size of job cuts. Vagueness prevails because these matters have been put off until the management reform committee, with equal management and labor representation, meets. Once layoffs commence, the agreement leaves room for union members to launch a strike without leaving themselves open to the accusation that they have gone back on their word. According to news reports, the union leadership persuaded its members to accept by saying that they could begin a strike at any time if the company starts laying off workers. If this does indeed represent the true intentions of the union leaders, and not mere rhetoric to get the approval of members, the acceptance of the restructuring plan is no more than a tactical retreat on the part of a union which is only thinking of court receivership and fresh loans from creditors. It is also unbelievable that even though Daewoo Motor is a private company and not a public corporation, an agreement has been made to form a four-party consultative body, which will include the government and creditors.
We hope that the Daewoo Motor union will think carefully about why the public feels relieved over its acceptance of the restructuring proposal. In order to revive the dying automaker, drastic job cuts are inevitable. We hope the union members realize this. The recovery of Daewoo Motor should begin with a change of mindset.