SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Korea Bizwire) — Unionized workers at GM Korea Co., the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., voted down a tentative wage deal for the year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said Tuesday.
In a vote held from Monday to Tuesday, 54 percent of 7,364 union workers rejected the tentative deal, GM Korea and its union said.
Union leaders will meet Wednesday to “decide what (additional or revised) demands it will make to the company and whether to hold an industrial action to get their voice heard,” a company spokesman said.
The union was not immediately available for comment.
Under the tentative agreement, GM Korea offered to provide 4 million won (US$3,600) per union worker in performance-based pay and bonuses for the year of 2020 instead of freezing basic salary.
The company said it will maintain production of the Trax compact SUV and the Malibu midsize sedan, currently being assembled at the No. 2 Bupyeong plant just west of Seoul, as long as possible.
Faced with strong objection from the union, which sticks to a one-year deal, the company also withdrew its proposal to have wage talks every two years, not once a year, to reduce uncertainties ahead.
GM Korea workers staged several rounds of partial strikes from Oct. 30, demanding an end to a wage freeze and a new vehicle production plan at the plant.
Partial strikes cost GM Korea about 25,000 vehicles in lost production. The company already suffered production losses of 60,000 vehicles in the first half due to impact of the pandemic.
The Detroit carmaker has three Korean plants — two in Bupyeong and one in Changwon — whose combined output capacity reaches 630,000 units a year.
GM Korea’s operating losses narrowed to 332 billion won in 2019 from 615 billion won a year earlier. It sold 417,226 vehicles last year, and sales stood at 300,352 units in the January-October period this year.
This year’s sales are expected to fall far short of the 2019 sales figure due to production losses driven by strikes.
In May 2018, GM and the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) signed a binding agreement for a combined 7.7 trillion-won lifeline — 6.9 trillion won from GM and 810 billion won from the state lender — to keep the Korean unit afloat amid low production rates and poor sales.
Under the deal, GM is banned from selling any of its stake in GM Korea until 2023 and is required to keep its holding in the unit above 35 percent until 2028.
GM owns a 67 percent stake in GM Korea, and KDB holds a 17 percent stake in the Korean unit.