|Renault Samsung's plant in Busan / Yonhap|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Renault Samsung Motors' union has called off a week-long strike and decided to return to work, according to company officials Wednesday.
The automaker resumed wage negotiations with its union, they said.
The union workers announced they would halt their walkout hours after the company imposed a partial lockout at the plant.
The firm had threatened to sue striking workers for financial damage unless they end the strike and return to work.
The change in the union's attitude came one day after the automaker announced a partial lockout at its plant in Busan to more efficiently manage employees who are not taking part in the strike.
On Tuesday, the automaker gave notice to its employees, saying it would impose a partial lockout due to sinking sales and production losses as a result of the dispute with the union.
The company was to suspend night shifts for an unspecified period as the utilization rate at its Busan plant fell below 25 percent of the normal level following the union's all-out strike.
Union workers had been holding all-out strikes since June 6 over wages and benefits.
"Although more than 60 percent of them have not been participating in the strikes, the absence of workers in an assembly line hindered the entire process and thus the plant was unable to operate as usual," the company stated.
"The union's reckless strikes caused a production fall of more than 75 percent," the official added.
Before calling off the strikes, the union had expressed a heightened sense of unease, saying the company has worsened the situation by imposing a partial lockout.
"The all-out strike is a collective action protected by law. The company's unilateral lockout decision is intended to incapacitate us," the union spokesperson said.
Industry analysts have been urging the union to return to the negotiating table to reach a fair and equitable agreement, saying it could really be a last resort.
"Renault has production sites all over the world, so it can replace the Busan plant at any moment," said Kim Phil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University. "The union should return to the table to solve the crisis."
The company and the union began negotiations in June last year to sign a deal on wages and collective agreements. Following 60 partial strikes, the Korean unit of French automaker Renault halted production at the Busan plant several times resulting in losses.
Affected by the strikes, Renault Samsung's sales fell 36 percent to 67,158 vehicles in the January-May period from 104,097 in the same period last year.