Renault-Samsung union members back job action

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Renault-Samsung union members back job action

Renault Samsung Motors, the Korean unit of French automaker Renault, might be in for a rocky summer after its union decided to launch an industrial action, although specific dates and methods have not been determined.

The union said yesterday that 94 percent of its 2,650 members favored industrial action in a vote Thursday.

However, since management has already offered talks, the union said it will first come to the negotiating table before deciding when and what kind of industrial action will be carried out.

The possibilities include a strike, slowdown or factory occupation.

If preliminary negotiations fall through, the automaker could experience a full strike for the first time since it started business in 1998. Last year, about 200 members affiliated with the Korea Metal Workers’ Union struck for one day.

RSM didn’t have a union until last year. Now it has two. One is the main union, which is comprised of members who were connected with its employee representative council in the past. The second is a small group associated with the Korea Metal Workers’ Union. Since most workers are with the former group, the main union has bargaining rights with management.

Management and the union could not reach agreement in last year’s wage negotiations. While the union asked for a more money, management proposed freezing wages and reducing benefits by urging employees to use their vacation time during periods when the factory is shut down.

To resolve the differences, the two sides asked for arbitration by the Busan National Labor Relations Commission earlier this year. However, that also failed to resolve the issues.

“The company is going through difficult times and we believe all employees know that,” said an official from RSM said. “There should not be a strike and we should be able to solve the problem by having a conversation.”

Industry insiders said that if RSM’s union strikes, the damage will be severe considering that the company’s productivity has been going down in recent years.

The nation’s fourth-largest automaker produced more than 270,000 units in 2010, but the figure plunged to 150,000 units last year. To cope with the slump, the company had to let go 800 employees through voluntary retirements.

Accumulated sales for the first four months of the year were only 40,700 units, down 30 percent from a year earlier. The automaker has no plans to release new models before the QM3, a small crossover utility vehicle, comes out late this year.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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