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GM Korea union to protest planned R&D center

Workers at General Motors Co.'s South Korean unit voted to go on strike to protest the carmaker's plan to create a separate research and development division, Yonhap News Agency reported Oct. 16.

The report said 78% of the 10,234-member union of GM Korea Co. voted for a walkout to rally their opposition to the establishment of GM Korea Technical Center Ltd. as the workers see it as the first step for the company to completely shut down its car manufacturing operations in the country.

Citing a letter sent to employees by GM Korea President and CEO Kaher Kazem, Yonhap said GM plans to establish the R&D site for the company to "more effectively respond to and secure and execute global engineering projects."

Kazem reportedly said the establishment of the proposed site will help the company put a larger focus on local manufacturing, export and domestic sales.

GM will hold a shareholders' meeting Oct. 19 to vote on the proposed R&D site.

The report added that state-run Korea Development Bank, GM Korea's second-biggest shareholder, recently filed an injunction against the meeting with a local court.

In May, Detroit-based GM agreed to keep its ownership in its local unit above 35% under a deal with the South Korean government. As part of the agreement, Korea Development Bank will invest $750 million in funding to GM Korea, while GM will lend the unit $3.6 billion for capital spending over the next 10 years.

Shortly after, GM Korea's labor union approved a temporary wage deal with the company, which included freezing base wages, skipping bonuses for 2018 and cutting benefits.