Lockout Declared at South Korean Kumho Plants
The Korea Times has reported lockouts at three of Kumho’s facilities in South Korea. According to the paper, the company lockouts – the first Kumho has enacted in 15 years – began on August 25 in response to a union strike against its downsizing plan. Employee access to the Gwangju, Gokseong and Pyeongtaek facilities was blocked as of 4am on August 25, following 20 failed negotiation sessions.
“We’ve had enough. The more we keep the machines running, the more the deficit snowballs,” declared a Kumho Tires spokesman who wished to remain anonymous. Unionised employees stopped work on August 23 in protest of a management plan to reduce the workforce by more than 18 per cent. On August 24 Kumho sent a list of the 733 affected workers to the union, however the names of those on the list have not been made public.
Kumho Tires, who holds a 30 per cent domestic market share, suffered from a 98.2 billion won (£24.49 million) loss in the first half of the year, and The Korea Times writes that a Kumho spokesman as saying that these losses were heightened by worker led “sabotage”, which has caused approximately 90 billion won in production losses.
Since June, the company has been suggesting wage freezes, job sharing through a reduction in work hours and five other plans to cut expenses. However, the union states that workers already agreed on a wage freeze for the past two years and job sharing has caused their actual wages to decrease by 20 to 30 per cent. Union representatives say they are willing to reach compromise. “The amount of the pay raise could be bargained and we will start working once a settlement is made,” stated a union official. Kumho also said it will resume production if workers end their strike.