The labor union of General Motors (GM) Korea, which has been fighting with the company’s management over a spate of issues, faces a dilemma over the living expenses of the workers who chose to remain in the closed Gunsan plant.
According to auto industry and government sources on Nov. 13, the employment retention support allowance of 1.8 million won (US$1,589), which has been provided to the 400 workers of the Gunsan plant since its shutdown in May, will be cut off at the end of this month.
About 600 workers rejected voluntary retirement and decided to remain in the Gunsan plant, which was officially closed down on May 31. Of them, around 200 workers were relocated to other plants in the country, including Bupyeong, Changwon and Boryeong. The remaining 400 workers were granted an unpaid leave. Under the program, they would get the 1.8 million won (US$1,589) allowance a month from the government for the first six months and 2.25 million won (US$1,986) a month from the labor union and management (50:50) for additional 24 months while waiting for relocation to other plants.
The problem is that the amount of the support is not negligible. It costs 900 million won (US$794,351) every month to provide 2.25 million won (US$1,986) a month to 400 workers. The labor union has to shoulder 450 million won (US$397,176) out of the 900 million won (US$794,351). A single union member has to pay 45,000 won (US$40) every month based on the current number of union members at 10,000. The figure goes up to 70,000 to 80,000 won (US$62 to US$62 71), which is more than double the monthly average union dues of 30,000 won (US$26).
To top this off, GM Korea is planning to spin off and establish the GM Korea Technical Center by combining its research and development headquarters at the Bupyeong plant, design center, and the Cheongra Research Center in December. There will be around 3,000 union members to be transferred to the new subsidiary. In other words, the 7,000 remaining union members has to bear the expenses of 450 million won (US$397,176). In this case, the union dues per person for living expenses of workers from the Gunsan plant will jump to 64,000 won (US$56). Combining the basic fee for union dues, the figure will reach 100,000 won (US$88). If there are members who withdraw from the labor union due to dissatisfaction from the cost burden, every one of the members has to pay more.
The labor union has continuously requesting for special collective bargaining to the management in order to address the R&D unit spinoff and employment retention support fund issues. However, the management has not yet acceded to the request for special collective bargaining other than official wage bargaining.
The labor union, which is in dilemma, is raising the level of protest. It said through its labor union newspaper “Democratic Square” on Nov. 6, “The labor union will hold off all the schedules and devote all its power to fight for it in November.” The union also published the real name of union members who didn’t participate in the scheduled absenteeism strike on the newspaper, checking on internal consolidation. The labor union has been occupying the office of lawmaker Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party, and going on strike from the 8th to put pressure on the political circle.