SEOUL — South Korea on Friday urged General Motors’ local subsidiary and labor union to reach a wage deal swiftly, after the automaker failed to make bonus payments — and triggered a violent protest in which workers ransacked GM’s executive offices.
The government said it could discuss financial support for the money-losing GM unit on condition of an agreement. 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.
The latest comments, made by the industry minister during a meeting with GM Korea’s chief executive, came as tension escalates after the automaker was unable to make the bonus payments agreed last year and planned for Friday.
Union members protested in response, entering the CEO’s office and removing and smashing chairs and desks, all caught on video.
“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.
South Korea has designated the city of Gunsan an “industrial crisis zone” over GM’s shutdown plans and the closure of a shipyard last year. The new designation provides broader financial support to workers and businesses, and is one notch above its previous designation as a “crisis zone for industry and employment.”