South Korea urges GM, union to reach wage deal swiftly as tension rises

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea on Friday urged General Motors Co’s local subsidiary and labor union to reach a wage deal swiftly, saying the government will be able to discuss support for the money-losing unit on condition of an agreement.

The logo of GM Korea is seen at its Bupyeong plant in Incheon, South Korea March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

GM, which in February announced it would shut one of its South Korean factories, said it will file for bankruptcy should the union refuse to make concessions by April 20. GM has also asked for financial support from the government.

The latest comments, made by the industry minister during a meeting with GM Korea’s chief executive officer (CEO), came as tension escalates after the automaker was unable to make bonus payments agreed last year and planned for Friday.

Union members protested on Thursday, entering the CEO’s office and removing and breaking chairs and desks, showed a CCTV video clip from broadcaster TV Chosun and verified by GM Korea.

“Should the industrial conflict seen yesterday and today happen again, it will be difficult for (GM Korea) to gain public support and government support,” Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy, said in a statement.

GM’s union accepted the company’s demand for a wage freeze and no bonuses for this year, but opposes a proposal to cut benefits as well as its plan to shut down the Gunsan plant.

“We appreciate the ministry’s interest and encouragement,” a GM Korea spokesman said.

A union official did not have immediate comment, beyond saying talks with the minister and the union leader were ongoing.

Reporting by Hyunjoo JinEditing by Christopher Cushing

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