Discord between GM Korea, union, KDB escalates

By Kim Bo-gyung

Lawmakers lambaste all sides in conflict over automaker’s R&D spinoff plan

  • Published : Nov 13, 2018 - 15:48
  • Updated : Nov 13, 2018 - 20:57

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.

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.”

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)

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 labor-rights advocate.

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) 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 increasingly complicated dynamics, with the KDB taking a step back from its push for a trilateral consultative body due to stark differences between the auto firm and the union.

The KDB will instead carry out separate talks with each party, it said.

In response to the KDB’s earlier suggestion for a trilateral consultative body, GM Korea had asked for mutual consent first, while the union had demanded disclosure of the business normalization agreement signed between GM and the KDB.

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

While trying to narrow differences with each party, the KDB said it will take legal action against the union for physically blocking three KDB representatives from attending the shareholders meeting where the vote on the spinoff took place last month, and against GM Korea for carrying out the spinoff without providing sufficient information.

By Kim Bo-gyung (