General Motors workers in South Korea forced their way into company executive offices on Thursday, destroying furniture in response to news that the automakerâ€™s local unit told employees there will be no bonuses due its ongoing cash crisis.
Based on video evidence, the incident itself was weirdly organized, with just a hint of underlying fury. As tables were carefully moved out of the office, perhaps to be destroyed elsewhere, union members tossed chairs, glasses, and the CEO’s various knickknack to the ground. There was also some light smashing of a cabinet and the trampling of a blazer,Â which was later carefully dusted off and removed from the room by an employee. The whole affair was closer to the hiring of a budget moving crew than a full-blown riot.Â
However, the singular security video only showed what happened in the office belonging to chief executive Kaher Kazem. Other rooms may have gotten a different treatment. According to Bloomberg, GM Korea described the event as a “violent incident” that “resulted in significant damage to company property.”Â The incident was reported to the police and the company has stated it will take legal action against the workers involved.
In February, General Motors announced it would shut one of its South Korean factories, saying it would file for bankruptcy should the union refuse to make concessions by April 20th (a traditionally ominous date that is also Hitler’s birthday â€” as well as “weed day”). GM has also requested the Korean government offer financial support so it can continue operating within the country.
Paik Un-gyu, Korea’s minister of trade, industry and energy, has spoken with both the union and GM Korea and said the attack on office furniture was a misstep. “Should the industrial conflict seen yesterday and today happen again, it will be difficult for [GM Korea] to gain public support and government support,” he said in a statement.
Even in an ideal scenario, GM’s Korean sales will need to see a turnaround if the company is to continue operating there.Â March sales were down 58 percent this year. Meanwhile, the automaker has asked employees to resign voluntarily as it closes its Gunsan plantÂ â€” something thousands have agreed to. But even with the union playing nice and the government offering aid, there is no assurance that GM won’t still pull out of the region. The company could simply be buying time as it decides how to best orchestrate its retreat from Korea. Although, it has proposed a $2.8 billion (USD) investment plan and a $2.7 billion debt-for-equity swap as a way to turn the tide.
Despite the incident in the executives offices, the union has officially said it is willing to accept the companyâ€™s demand for a wage freeze and no bonuses for 2018. But it will continue opposing any proposal that cuts worker benefits and has been vehemently against closing theÂ Gunsan facility.
[Image: via Youtube]