17 GM Korea union leaders took bribes from workers

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17 GM Korea union leaders took bribes from workers

A group of current and former leaders of the labor union of GM Korea were indicted for taking bribes from subcontracted employees, the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office announced Tuesday.

A total of 17 current and former leaders of the union of GM Korea, the South Korean unit of U.S. automaker General Motors, including a 55-year-old former labor union leader surnamed Jeong, were indicted for violating the Labor Standards Act by taking bribes from subcontracted workers in return for helping them get hired at the company as salaried employees.

After raiding the residence of suspect Jeong last May, prosecutors found 400 million won ($349,260) in cash wrapped in plastic hidden in the ceiling of a bathroom. They found an additional 50 million won stashed in the trunk of Jeong’s car.

Jeong was indicted for taking a total of 560 million won in bribes from auto-parts suppliers and another 25 million won from three subcontracted workers in return for helping them get hired as salaried workers at GM Korea.

Prosecutors believe that 123 out of 346 employees at GM Korea’s factory in Bupyeong District in Incheon were hired from 2012 to 2016 in dodgy circumstances.

Also indicted were five current and former managers and executives of GM Korea, including a 58-year-old former vice president of the labor management department surnamed Jeon for obstruction of company business. The five allegedly colluded with the union leaders.

Some 42 employees of GM Korea who voluntarily told the prosecution that they had bribed managers at the company were let go without charges but on probation.

Jeon and other current and former executives and managers of GM Korea have hired subcontracted employees as salaried workers from 2012 to 2016 by tweaking their application and interview records to improve their assessment scores.

The GM Korea executives and labor union leaders were paid 20 million won to 75 million won each person, adding up to 1.152 billion won. The union leaders took 75.7 percent of the bribes, amounting to 873 million won, according to prosecution.

Among the 17 labor union leaders indicted, nine were arrested, including Jeong and a 51-year-old labor union leader surnamed Lee. Lee took 138 million won as bribes from seven subcontracted workers from 2014 to 2015.

Lee’s brother, 58, was also indicted and arrested. He worked in the production department of GM Korea and allegedly took 130 million won in bribes from two subcontracted workers.

Some subcontracted workers told prosecutors that they had no choice but to pay the bribes.

“I have been working at a subcontracted company of GM Korea for the past 10 years, and for eight years, I applied to become a salaried worker at GM Korea but was not successful,” a subcontracted worker told prosecutors. “The minute I paid a broker [a union manager], I was hired instantly as a salaried worker.”

“The corruption scandal involving the labor union and the labor management department of the company gravely compromised the interests and rights of employees who took the lawful and proper path to become salaried workers,” said a prosecutor in charge of the case.

BY CHOI MO-RAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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