Focus on quality works for union

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Focus on quality works for union

On the wall of LG Electronics’ labor union office in Yeongdeongpo District, southwestern Seoul, hung a sign that read: “The best quality product comes from the tip of the union worker’s finger.”

Normally such a banner would be posted on the wall of a company’s research and development center or quality management department.

Bae Sang-ho, head of LG Electronics’ labor union, said the sign was posted at the union’s office because he strongly believes that focusing on improving quality is an investment that will pay off for workers.

Labor unions at Korean companies are notorious for their hard line, and quality control is typically entrusted to management.

Bae, however, said improving productivity and quality benefits the union workers in the end as their share of profits increases as the company’s performance improves.

That belief was put into practice at LG Electronics production lines in Korea at the end of 2010, when union workers pledged to practice union social responsibility (USR) and put public interest before self interest.

“As companies came up with corporate social responsibility (CSR), [the USR] is a concept where union workers not only improve productivity at work, but also participate in external activities that reach out to areas of need in society at large,” Bae said.

According to the company, since workers took the USR pledge, faulty products caused by loose nuts and screws have been eliminated.

In the past, some nuts and bolts were tilted when screwed in, resulting in a flawed product at the end of the process. However, with the assistance of union workers, the company was able to come up with an improved production line screw.

Union workers at the nation’s leading consumer electronics good manufacturer also became more active in supporting social enterprises.

One that disassembled discarded consumer electronics goods was overwhelmed and running short of space.

LG Electronics not only provided financial assistance to the company, but union workers designed a conveyer belt that fit the work environment. A magnet preventing metals from disassembled products from falling off the conveyer belt was placed under the belt.

As a result, the social enterprise’s productivity increased 40 percent.

The social enterprise, which wasn’t too comfortable with the union workers’ support at first, said it will only purchase LG Electronics after the assistance, the labor union said.

The union workers are not only keeping the USR commitment, they are spreading the word to other union workers of LG Electronics outside Korea.

After Korean union representatives visited an LG Electronics’ plant in Brazil, the union representative there sent a message that they too will take part in the USR campaign.

Other LG affiliates also are joining the movement, including LG Display and Innotek. The union representatives of these companies accompanied LG Electronics management last month to Ethiopia, where they agreed to build wells and schools for residents.

The government also is taking notice of LG Electronics’ USR campaign. Bae in March was invited to a policy discussion held at the National Assembly.

By Park Tae-hee [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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