Discord between GM Korea, union, KDB escalates


Tension surrounding GM Korea’s plan to spin off a new research and development entity has intensified, with politicians lashing out at the union for its actions and the carmaker for triggering chaos.

The Democratic Party of Korea’s Rep. Hong Young-pyo, who currently represents Bupyeong, Incheon, where the GM Korea headquarters and its factory are located, criticized the labor union for “using excessively violent ways” and “forcing their ideas 100 percent” at a press conference earlier this week.

Members of GM Korea`s labor union protest near the Blue House in northern Seoul on Oct. 24 over the carmaker`s decision to set up an independent entity in charge of research and development. (Yonhap)

Hong also described the labor union’s sit-in protest at his office as a move that would be regarded as “terror” in the eyes of the US headquarters. The union has been holding a sit-in since last week, following Hong’s refusal to meet for talks about GM Korea’s R&D entity spinoff.

Urging the union to resolve the problem through dialogue, Hong said, “I am from GM Korea and (currently) represent Bupyeong, but I cannot intervene in every single management-related issue at GM Korea.”

Having served as a top executive of the unionized labor of GM Daewoo, the predecessor of GM Korea, prior to entering politics, Hong is a well-known pro-union, pro-worker defender.

After a closed-door meeting with GM Korea chief Kaher Kazem, Hong also criticized the carmaker for “starting” the conflict.

“The spinoff issue pushed forward by the company according to a set timeline like a military operation fueled anxiety among the union and community,” Hong posted on his Facebook page.

At the National Assembly, Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the Bareunmirae Party on Tuesday joined the fray by denouncing GM Korea’s union for its actions, and urged the government to drop its financial support for the carmaker. GM Korea has so far received half of the 810 billion won ($714.7 million) of funds agreed in the April deal.

“Based on the actions of GM’s labor union, recovery at GM seems impossible. The union habitually stages strikes and uses violent measures,” Ha said.

“No investor would want to support a union that frequently conducts violent strikes. To bring in investment, the union has to show its productivity and competitiveness not its violence.”

The remarks from members of the National Assembly come amid complicating dynamics, with GM Korea and the union taking different approaches to state-run Korea Development Bank Chairman Lee Dong-gull’s suggestion for a trilateral consultative body.

GM Korea asked for mutual consent with the KDB to precede a trilateral consultative body, while the union demanded disclosure of the business normalization agreement signed between GM and KDB.

“To narrow down the differences with KDB, and secure long-term success and sustainable future in Korea, we suggested a meeting with KDB. Three-way talks could yield complexity and hinder constructive conversation,” GM Korea said.

The union said in a statement “we will participate in the consultative body suggested by the KDB and actively put forth our requests.”

The union has also demanded the KDB to retract plans to transfer roughly 400 billion won out of the 810 billion won of financial support the government agreed to provide to the carmaker in April.

While trying to bring in related parties for talks, the KDB said it will take legal action against the union for physically blocking three KDB representatives from attending a shareholders meeting held to vote over the spinoff last month, and GM Korea for carrying out the spinoff without sufficient information. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)

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