|[Jeong Ki-hoon/The Labor Today]|
Last year, the national automobile industry regardless of finished vehicle manufacturers or auto parts suppliers underwent a difficult time, due to the sluggish production, sales and exports. The ramification of the slowdown of the large industry like the automobile industry seriously affects the job market. The restructuring of GM Korea like the shutdown of the GM Korea Gunsan plant caused the deterioration of employment in the industry and the region where the plant was located. The worsening job market situation triggered the conflict between labor and management. This year again, the automobile industry is forecast to face the similar challenges. This is the reason why a breakthrough needs to be made. In order to address this situation, the stakeholders like labor unions and employers in the automobile industry and government officials began discussions to change the crisis into the opportunity.
According to the government and the labor circle on January 3, a ‘tripartite forum of the automobile industry’ will be formed around the end of this month. It aims that representatives of labor and management together with government officials share the information on the automobile industry and employment situation and seek to find out the solutions to reinvigorate the automobile industry and strengthen its competitiveness. The date of the forum launch is likely to be either on January 23 or 24, but a working party meeting scheduled on January 8 will finalize the date.
The forum inclusively covers all labor unions and employers’ associations in the automobile industry. The Korean Metal Workers’ Union(KMWU) to which labor unions of the finished vehicle manufacturers are affiliated and the Federation of Korean Metalworkers’ Trade Unions(FKMTU) to which labor unions of auto parts suppliers are largely affiliated are participating in the forum representing the labor circle, whereas the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association(KAMA) and the Korea Auto Industries Cooperatives Association(KAICA) join the forum representing the business circle. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy(MOTIE) and the Ministry of Employment and Labor(MOEL) will be also members of the forum, along with the national research institutes like the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade(KIET) and the Korea Labor Institute(KLI). The forum becomes a space where all key players of the automobile industry meet together.
The forum has yet to confirm the agendas for the discussion, but they made a broad consensus to share the business trend and employment situation of the automobile industry and find out the solutions to the problems facing the industry. The forum would start with a lower level of dialogue, not seeking for a consultation or an agreement.
Kim Jun-young, FKMTU’s general secretary said that “it would be more than good if the forum can discuss the issues of the polarization between the finished vehicle manufactures and auto parts suppliers and the solutions of the gap, but we should not be too ambitious, as we are just entering into the first stage.” “It is still meaningful when we share the situation together and various ideas to improve the profit structure between the finished vehicle manufactures and auto parts suppliers,” he added.
The employers’ side takes a cautious stance. Kim Jun-ki, KAMA’s policy director said that “the forum is likely to discuss the issue of auto parts suppliers, we will have a close look into how the dialogue develops in the forum.”
Kim San, KAICA’s planning and research director said that “since the automobile industry had gone through a difficult time, I agreed with the objective of the forum as a dialogue channel that labor and management can openly discuss their positions and develop the agendas to find out the solutions. But, I don’t have big expectations.”
Dr. Cho Seong-jae, KLI’s labor relations executive director that “it would not be easy to come up with any tangible outcome, because the mutual distrust in labor relations of the automobile industry is deeply rooted. However, the dialogue itself is a progress, taking into account the low level of trust between labor and management in the automobile industry.” “The forum can have a chance to be consolidated with the support of the expertise and public interest, as the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy(MOTIE) and the Ministry of Employment and Labor(MOEL) can provide the investment and policy assistance with the support of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade(KIET) and the Korea Labor Institute(KLI) can back up the forum,” he added with his expectation to the forum.
It is anticipated that the forum launch will be blessed by the participation of government ministers, labor union chiefs and employers’ associations’ heads.
reported by Bae Hye-jung
translated by Kim Sung-jin
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