Troubled Kumho Tire Co. faces the prospect of a general strike by its tire plant workforce after announcing plans for layoffs as part of its restructuring plan.
The company’s union said that it call for a strike as of Mar. 16 unless negotiations make progress. The union said it is willing to take wage cuts to preserve the jobs.
“If we accept the proposal from the labor union, we will shoulder 38 billion won in additional costs each year,” a Kumho Tires official said. “We cannot accept it.”
The company laid off 1,199 workers at its Gwangju plant, according to the Korea Times, but said 1,006 of them would be hired by Kumho subcontractors.
The union said it will meet today and Saturday, and may hold a strike authorization vote early next week, the reports said. “We will continue to fight,” a union spokesman told the newspaper. “But if the management wants to resume talks to find a breakthrough, we will willingly cooperate.”
At the same time, a strike by Kumho workers could have wide-spread ramifications. South Korea’s second largest trade union, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said in a statement, “If Kumho Tires launches a strike, we will also join their struggle with all we have.”
Meanwhile, South Korea Strategy and Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun, the nation’s top economic policymaker, publicly called for Kumho’s union to cooperate with the restructuring.
“In the past, Hyundai and Daewoo units have survived through a drastic self-imposed restructuring scheme. If Kumho Tire is a competitive corporate entity, it will follow their footsteps. To do so, both management and workers must make sacrifices. But unfortunately, Kumho Tires' labor union has refused to accept restructuring,” Yoon said.