By on August 14, 2012

GM Korea reached a tentative wage agreement with its union, Reuters says. Workers receive a little more money, and a major concession that could have far-reaching consequences for GM’s recovery if it sets a precedence in the rest of GM’s world.

The union is expected to put the deal to a union vote on Thursday or Friday.  Workers will receive 80,564 Korean won ($71.23) as an increase in base salary,  a bonus of 5 million won ($4,423) and a one-off payment of 3 million won ($2,654). Most importantly, workers have received a concession on their most pressing demand: An end of the three-shift work week.  Workers had voted for a strike if round-the-clock work continues.

Under the deal, a new shift scheme in will be tested in the first quarter of 2013. Closing weak factories and running the remaining strong ones flat out three shifts per day to maximize returns appears to be one of the cores of GM’s restructuring plan. Privately, executives at other carmakers warn against this strategy. “If you work round the clock, you end up with unhappy workers, sinking quality, and no time to make repairs,” an executive at a European carmaker said. “Then the unhappy want more money, and if you give them more, they will still be unhappy.”

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26 Comments on “Korean GM Workers Break Three Shift Strategy...”

  • avatar

    Isn’t this how GM labor relations work everywhere? Manage/operate factories in a way that guarantees workers are unhappy; unhappy workers (threaten to) strike; buy them off with more money; repeat.

  • avatar

    Good for the workers. That’s how strikes are supposed to work, standing up together to be treated as human beings and not just another industrial tool. Unlike machine tools, workers have lives outside the factory gates. Of course, with our current globalization, race-to-the-bottom economics, they’ll probably move the jobs to somewhere even cheaper where the workers don’t have the timerity to complain.

    • 0 avatar

      ” they’ll probably move the jobs to somewhere even cheaper where the workers don’t have the timerity to complain.”

      I believe you’re absolutely right!

      Proton in Asia could use an influx of money, and Indonesia is growing its industrial output within the next five years and will build more cars for its own consumption and export, and I’ve read that Manchuria is interested in cultivating its heretofore unexplored manpower resources.

      And let’s not forget the enormous manpower resources of Viet Nam? With help from the Chinese and Americans (to a smaller extent) Viet Nam will pay off handsomely in high ROIs of any industrial venture.

      There’s a lot of money to be made out there, and even GM must be aware of it.

  • avatar

    Different cultures…..Here in Oshawa we embraced the third shift. For years it was staffed by volunteer’s. Our days, and afternoons rotate bi-weekly. The third shift was steady. I imagine these days there’s folks that want off third. I remember when you had to go on a waiting list for third.

    In the truck plant we ran a fourth shift for maintanence and cleaning. You worked three twelves, Friday,Saturday,and Sunday….36 hours for 40 hours pay. No one was forced into that shift either.

    If the car companys can’t get the Koreans to work three shifts?

    Trust me… will hear NO arguement over here.

    • 0 avatar

      The conditions on those factories may not be up to Oshawa’s standards but assuming they are similar I am surprised to see the workers protest third shift so much, esp of their North American counterparts are/were eager to take care of it.

      Curious the European executive (who sounds like Volkswagen) warns against round the clock production. While this may be an apt warning, it flies in the face of the work-hard-or-we’ll-ship-your-job-to-China stance many manufactures have taken in recent years. Perhaps its easy for the European executive to lecture when his products may not be going neck and neck in the lower end of the car market. Realistically speaking how often are Daimler/BMW/Volkswagen/Opel/Volvo products going up against Daewoos (or the like) and in how many markets?

      • 0 avatar

        @28 cars: I don’t know that I would take much advice from an executive whose industry has massive overcapacity, unless it IS one of the Germans… Even so, their situation won’t last forever and some other car industry will be on top someday. I’d agree with Mikey, it must be a cultural thing. I used to love 3rd shift, but I was younger then, and my schedule was much more flexible…

    • 0 avatar

      Mikey, what made the third shift so attractive? Was there a significant shift bonus or was the pace a little easier?

      • 0 avatar

        @crackers…Ten percent shift bonus. Day care costs, and quality of life.

        In my 36 plus years,I might of done 20 hrs on third. That was about 19 hours too much. I never understood the atraction.

        To each his own eh?

    • 0 avatar

      I agree completely. I have never heard complaints about the hours of a third shift (in the automotive and non-automotive manufacturing plants I’ve worked). I’m assuming 3rd shift = night shift in TTAC speak.

      Most third shifters enjoyed being able to attend their kids’ functions or liked not having to pay for day care. It’s the 2nd shift (or afternoon shift) that was usually hard to fill. It was usually made up of the younger / lower seniority work force. In a OEM auto plant, lower seniority = 40 yrs old. In the non-auto plant I worked in, lower seniority = 18 yrs old. I liked 2nd shift due to it’s flexibility for a masters’ program.

      Those plants just painted a target on their foreheads. It’ll be an interesting day to see a plant get shuttered that isn’t in North America.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Not that I ever worked in an auto factory, but I did work in a Dolley Madison Cakes factory bakery (that supplied everything from Salt Lake City west, which ran 3 shifts. I worked the night shift one summer from 10:30 to 6:30 a.m., in the middle of my college years, doing the crappy jobs (sanitation, loading dock, running the panwashing machine). I was surprised at the number of middle-aged folks (men and women) doing that shift, but they all said they liked being at home in the daytime for their families.

        After one summer of that, I swore I’d never do that again. A few years later, I worked the same hours for a year on the “police beat” for Houston daily newspaper.

        Felt like a vampire.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      In Venezuela, by law, the third shift is one of the best paid. And that is before corporate agreements negotiated between the company and the unions.

      Law dictated no more than 44 hrs/week for day shift, 40 for mixed and 36 for The hour rate increases after 17:00 IIRC, so the second only gets half of the pay. And because of workable hours, there’s a chance of slipping a maintenance shift there, which would be like the 4th.

      I did my internship in a food factory which worked 3 shifts. I don’t remember hearing the personnel whinging about that. And what I heard from other people working 3rd or 4th shifts coincides with “sinistermisterman” observation that they worked better because management wasn’t around.

      Those guys have just exported their jobs away.

  • avatar

    How does 3 shifts cover 7X24 anyways? 7X24= 168 hours. Assuming a 40 hr work week, wouldn’t you need 4 shifts to cover 160hrs?

  • avatar

    “…and a major concession that could have far-reaching consequences for GM’s recovery if it sets a precedence in the rest of GM’s world.”

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • avatar

    Huh, the last place I worked that had three shifts, we found that the third shift was always the most productive. We put it down to the fact that during those hours top management was fast asleep in bed and less likely interfere or come up with some “GREAT IDEA!” which would impact production and quality.

  • avatar

    I call BS. I grew up in a 3 shift town. A Union one. Everyone did fine, and made money. Even the nearby cafes and bars ran 24/7. Best productivity. Best utilization of Capital. They shutdown twice a year for major maintenance. Look around ,Hospitals, Powerplants Police and Fire, most mills and continuous processes. Lots of people run around the clock. These guys just became less competitive in the world.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    24/7 chemical plants have 4 shifts of employees.

  • avatar

    A lot of people love third shift living. GF in college, graduated BS in accounting, kept working at outback as waitress. Masters in accounting, kept working as waitress at outback, she just loved the vampire lifestyle (work till 12, go out to bars until 4, rinse and repeat). That’s why she finally had to go, I had a regular job and finally didn’t want to be woken up at 3-4:30 to screw when I had to get up at 6 to get ready for work and wasn’t drunk and coked up as she was. She’s 38 now, looks about 50.

    • 0 avatar

      NOT wanting to be waked up for sex with a coked up girl has to be the worst explanation for braking up in the history of man kind. Looking like 50 when 36 has to be one of the better reasons thou. I’ll give you a pass this time.

  • avatar

    Canon Camera has found a solution for labor issues. No problems for them after 2015. No strikes, no labor negotiations, no pension plans, no contracts…

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, that works right up until nobody has a job then Sony is screwed unless they start paying the robots to buy the stuff they build.

      I dont buy the “we wont cut jobs” line – you only need so many humans to do other tasks (including servicing the robots) once those jobs are filled – the excess labor is just redundant welfare and a drag on the bottom line – no bean counter worth his beans will let that stand for very long.

    • 0 avatar


      someone needs to maintain the robots. someone needs to monitor faults caused by non-conforming material. someone needs to program the robots. someone neeeds to change tooling.

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