The labor union of Renault Samsung Motors went on full strike on Dec. 23, but more than half of the union members reported to work for normal operation of the day shift production line. The labor-management dispute is changing into a labor-labor conflict at Renault Samsung as some union members revolted against the struggle guideline of the radical labor union leadership.
The company said 68 percent of the 1,700 labor union members at its Busan plant reported to work despite the leadership’s strike order.
Thanks to the 1,150 employees’ who reported to work, the Busan plant operated its production lines normally from 7:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., the regular working hours for day shift workers. Moreover, 680 unionists went to overtime work and rolled out about 150 vehicles on Dec. 21, even though the overtime work was announced unexpectedly as the labor union decided to push for a partial strike on Dec. 20.
Industry watchers say that the labor union’s walkout will not last long due to an increase in unionists who do not take part in it. Earlier in June, the labor union was forced to withdraw from a strike due to the increase in union members who refused to participate in it.
"As production volume has been reduced and export volume for next year has not been confirmed, the labor union’s strike can be a threat to the company's survival," a Renault Samsung official said. “We will operate production lines as much as possible with workers who do not join the walkout.”
The labor and management of Renault Samsung have been at loggerheads over an increase in the basic salary during wage negotiations this year. On Dec. 20, the management made a proposal including a total of 5 million won incentives including 1 million won in compensation for maintaining the basic salary, but the labor union decided to go on strike, sticking to an increase in the base salary.
The labor union’s strike is hampering production of the sport utility vehicle (SUV) QM6 which has been gaining popularity in Korea recently. The QM6 is a model taking the lead in recovering Renault Samsung's domestic sales as its sales surged by more than 40 percent on year by the end of November. Accordingly, the automaker operated the plant through overtime on Dec. 21 even though it was Saturday.
"As Renault Headquarters allocates export volume in consideration of the Busan plant’s labor cost and production stability, the labor union’s strike can be a bad move, sparking off a production cliff," an auto industry official said. “Some unionists who understand this fact seem to be leaving the strike."