South Korean auto workers at Kia Motors had initially planned a strike this week to demand better wages and conditions in the face of a growing economic and social crisis. , canceled the strike on Wednesday night and signed a sale deal with the company the next day. Workers must reject the latest provisional contract.
It was the first strike at Kia in two years. A union official told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency before the cancellation, “The management is making proposals that union members cannot understand and stalling negotiations. If things continue as they are, there will only be a general strike.”
But what was described as a “general strike” was nothing of the sort. Instead, the KMWU intended to limit its impact on the company as much as possible, limiting action to his two-hour and his four-hour partial strikes on Thursday and Friday respectively. The union no doubt wanted to polish its false radical image with talk of a strike before reaching this latest sale agreement.
When contract negotiations with Kia began in the summer, Kia workers received a monthly wage increase of 165,200 won (US$116), a bonus of 30% of last year’s operating profit, and an extension of the retirement age from 60 to 64. and to abolish the mandatory retirement age. His two-tier system that salaries for new hires are significantly lower than for older employees.
Instead, on August 30th, the union returned with its first sell-out deal. This included a monthly salary increase of 98,000 won (US$69), a 200% “performance-based” bonus, and an additional 4 million won (US$2,800) for him. “Incentive”.
The main issue workers rejected was the company’s request to limit a lifetime program that would allow retirees with 25+ years of service to buy a new car every two years at a 30% dissatisfaction rate. The latest deal raises the program cap to 75 years old, lowers the discount rate to 25%, and extends purchase terms every three years. The program will also apply to electric vehicles from 2025.
By essentially forcing a re-vote on deals that workers rejected, it’s clear that Kia workers are confronting not only the company, but the union as well. The KMWU Kia branch kept auto workers working for weeks even though union members overwhelmingly voted to strike on his August 19th. Out of some 28,200 voters, 89.4% of his 24,200 workers who participated chose to strike.
KMWU is one of the most powerful and influential organizations in the Korean Trade Union Confederation (KCTU). The KMWU also represents workers from other auto companies, but instead of starting an industry-wide union struggle of workers, the KMWU split the workers and forced the auto workers to go on strike together. In order to prevent this, each company is forced to deal with the parent manager. Even within the same company, unions divide workers into regular and non-regular workers, the latter being paid far less than regular workers doing the same work.
Further demonstrating the repression of this class struggle is that if the KMWU enforces the new agreement at Kia, the Korean auto industry will be the first in 12 years to join Hyundai, Kia, GM Korea, Ssangyong and Renault Korea. .
In line with this, the KMWU is using the COVID-19 pandemic and trade dispute with Japan to force workers into wage freezes and other concession agreements. In July, KMWU pushed through a deal to sell South Korea’s largest automaker, Hyundai Motor, which also owns Kia Motors, despite votes in favor of a strike. The sell-out helped pave the way for similar sell-outs at GM Korea and Renault Korea by isolating non-agreement workers. His KMWU branch of Hyundai said he has not called for a strike in four years.
Moreover, Kia Motors is now making record profits. The company’s operating profit in the second quarter of this year was 2.23 trillion won ($1.6 billion), a 50.2% increase over the same period last year. This includes his record operating margin of 10.2%. Net profit also hit a record high of his 1.88 trillion won ($1.3 billion).
However, workers are facing higher prices due to the growing global economic crisis. The International Monetary Fund raised its 2022 inflation forecast for South Korea to 5.5% on Oct. 11 from his 4%. Residential natural gas prices have also increased this month, with households facing an estimated 15.9% increase in bills as the country heads into the cooler autumn and winter months.
The KCTU and another major union organization, the conservative Confederation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), have been tasked by the bourgeoisie with the task of keeping workers’ anger at rising economic inequality within bourgeois politics. I’m here. While the KCTU takes a radical and sometimes even anti-capitalist stance, the FKTU is more openly aligned with the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Korea. Both work to keep workers weary of the Democratic Party from fighting for the interests of their own independent class.
In recent months, both organizations have committed numerous betrayals of workers, including health care workers, bus drivers, subcontracted shipbuilders agreeing to sales contracts, betraying strikes, and canceling planned strikes. rice field.
The most egregious betrayal was committed by KCTU and its affiliate Cargo Truckers Solidarity (CTS) against 25,000 truck drivers nationwide in June. The drivers’ strike soon had a major impact on large companies such as automobile companies and steel companies. With the ruling class demanding that the strike be resolved favorably, the CTS quickly called off the strike with none of the drivers’ demands being met. This also prevented a broader united struggle with auto workers and drivers at Hyundai and other auto companies.
Kia workers and workers across South Korea must draw the necessary conclusions from these betrayals. Pro-capitalist unions are not going to fight for the interests of the working class. Instead, they work to suppress class struggle.