2017-07-18 19:11
Union ups ante amid rumors over GM Korea's exit
GM Korea’s workers ask the government not to sell its stake in the Korean unit of the U.S. automaker in a protest near Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. / Yonhap

By Park Hyong-ki

GM Korea’s labor union has asked the President Moon Jae-in administration to prevent massive job losses like the ones SsangYong Motor workers faced when its former owner SAIC of China pulled out of Korea.

Workers took to the streets near Cheong Wa Dae Monday, protesting against GM and demanding the government not sell its stake in the U.S. automaker’s Korean unit.

The union is demanding job security, and asking the government to intervene so that GM Korea, which has been losing money amid poor sales, will not withdraw from the country.

GM autoworkers are also asking the Moon administration to push the company to plan for the future.

“GM Korea is threatening to leave the country after receiving all sorts of state benefits and issuing rosy projections,” a union official said.

Another laborer said the union is not asking the company to create more jobs, but is “seeking job security for its existing 300,000 workers.”

The union’s protest came after a majority of GM workers recently voted to go on strike. The Korean Metal Workers’ Union, a union umbrella group, also joined GM Korea workers.

Rumors that GM Korea could leave the country surfaced after operating losses reached nearly 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) over the past three years and GM began global restructuring. Another recent factor is the soon-to-be-expired veto rights of the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB).

KDB has a 17.02 percent stake in GM Korea. Its right as a shareholder to veto any resolutions drawn up by GM Korea’s board, including its decision to pull out of the country, will expire on Oct. 16.

After that date, GM can exit the country without KDB’s approval or dissent. GM Korea has denied that it will fold up its business here.

But the withdrawal scenario became more feasible after GM Korea CEO James Kim decided early this month to resign without appointing a successor.

His main reason for leaving was to fully engage in duties as the leader of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM), which observers see as irresponsible.

GM Korea’s union warned it will fight to the end unless the company comes up with a business plan that can sustain the company and its workers.