SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Korea Bizwire) — Unionized workers at Renault Samsung Motors Corp. on Tuesday voted to strike in protest against the company’s wage freeze proposal for the year.
In a vote held at its sole Busan plant, 66 percent of the 2,000-member union agreed on industrial action for an increase in basic pay and better working conditions, the union said.
In June, Renault Samsung and the union sealed a wage deal for the year of 2018 after staging 62 rounds of strikes that resulted in production losses of over 14,300 vehicles.
“The company demanded the union accept a wage freeze last year, and this year they also asked us to accept a freeze on basic salary. It is not acceptable,” a union spokesman said over the phone.
The company sold a total of 227,577 vehicles in 2018, down 18 percent from a year earlier. In the January-November period, its sales plunged 23 percent to 161,733 units from 209,126 a year ago.
In October, Renault Samsung reduced production at its sole plant in Busan, 454 kilometers south of Seoul, due to declining sales and a lack of a new vehicle for exports.
It also offered a voluntary retirement program, the first since 2012, to its 1,800 employees in September, but only a few dozen workers applied for the program.
The company has said it will be difficult to maintain the current workforce as the output volume of Nissan Motor Co.’s Rogue SUV is expected to fall sharply next year from this year’s 60,000 units.
Renault Samsung had produced about 100,000 Rogues at the Busan plant for export on a manufacturing contract with Nissan.
But Nissan cut its output allocation to the plant to 60,000 from 100,000 early this year due to production losses caused by the union’s strikes.
To offset the discontinuation of the Rogue production, Renault Samsung badly needs to secure output volume for the XM3 compact SUV for export to Europe.
But the company is still in talks with its parent Renault, and no decision has been made yet.
The company’s current lineup includes the SM3 compact, the all-electric SM3 Z.E. sedan, the QM3 small SUV and the SM5, SM6 and SM7 sedans.
Renault has an 80 percent stake in Renault Samsung.