Delusion at GM Korea

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Delusion at GM Korea

Unionized workers of GM Korea, which can no longer even pay employees, resorted to their old-fashioned way while being totally unmindful of their company’s troubles. Union members raided the office of CEO Kaher Kazem after he notified employees on Thursday that the company could not pay regular bonuses and also was unsure about regular salaries for this month.

At the news, some union members wielded metal pipes. When they failed to meet the CEO, they rushed to the vice president’s office and held him for half an hour, demanding an apology for his call for “pain-sharing” from the union. It is ridiculous that a company that incurred huge losses of 3 trillion won ($2.8 billion) over the last three years, including 900 billion won in 2017, is forced to pay out bonuses to employees while their factories are performing at half their capacity. The company is nearly bankrupt, and yet its workers are demanding their usual compensation.

GM Korea’s union has been notoriously insensitive to the deepening woes of the company. Even as production and sales have been hurt after it lost its primary customer following GM’s pullout of the Chevrolet brand from Europe in 2014, workers nevertheless pushed for wage hikes every year and walked out repeatedly to win their demands. As a result, average pay per worker shot up to 87 million won ($81,371) from 79 million won in 2014. Labor costs take up a whopping 11.5 percent of its revenue.

They stayed recalcitrant even as the management proposed a cut in employee welfare benefits worth 300 billion won a year. They not only rejected the management’s plea, but also demanded 30 million won worth of company shares per worker, job security for 10 years, and an extension of the retirement age up to 65 in this year’s collective bargaining.

The management should be held accountable for the company’s current troubles, but the union totally loses sympathy with its selfish ways. Instead of trying to help restructure their workplace, whose productivity lags far behind the domestic and overseas competitors’, the workers are using force to protect their vested interests.

GM Korea’s union may have become deluded because the government has not taken any action on union executives charged for violent protests. The government must take stern action against such illegalities and make it clear that it cannot give a cent of public funds to a company that does little to help itself.

JoongAng Sunday, Apr. 7-8, Page 34
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