* Programme open to about 7,000 office workers
* Union says it's like GM Korea "declared war"
* GM, Renault squeezed by dominant players Hyundai, Kia
By Hyunjoo Jin
SEOUL, Nov 20 The South Korean unit of General
Motors Co plans to slash its headcount by launching a
"voluntary retirement" scheme open to its 7,000 office workers,
a company source told Reuters On Tuesday.
GM Korea spokesman Park Hae-ho, confirmed the plan was aimed
at "enhancing its organizational efficiency" and said it is the
first time the company has made such a plan applicable to all
its office workers, following an earlier scheme limited to
senior office workers.
Park did not disclose a target for the reductions, but said
its 10,000 production workers will not be affected.
The move is causing concerns about a restructuring at GM
Korea, which is being squeezed by rivals Hyundai Motor Co
and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp, as
well as by imported vehicles from Germany, Japan and other
The South Korean market is shrinking due to the global
economic slowdown and as heavy household debt cuts demand. GM
Korea is not the only carmaker to cut jobs in response. The
South Korean unit of French carmaker Renault SA this
year cut 800 workers, or about 15 percent of its workforce,
using a similar programme.
GM's South Korean market share has fallen below 10 percent
since 2008. The carmaker had a 9.4 percent share from January to
October this year in the domestic car market while Hyundai and
Kia controlled around 80 percent.
After GM's plan was disclosed, a GM Korea union spokesman
said it is like GM Korea "declared a war" against the union
following the carmaker's earlier announcement that it will
exclude South Korea from the production of its next-generation
Chevrolet Cruze model.
Union officials said they were told on Nov. 1 that the new
Cruze will be produced in Europe and four other regions,
sparking speculation that GM may move output to Europe to help
boost efficiency at its money-losing unit there.
GM Korea, which ranks third in South Korean car sales after
Hyundai and Kia, started receiving applications for its latest
plan on Tuesday and will close it on Dec. 14. Under the program,
workers will receive compensation of up to two years' salary,
two years' school tuition support and a car voucher worth 10
million Korean won ($9,200), according to a Nov. 20 company
notice obtained by Reuters.
South Korea is a small market for GM, but is one of its key
production bases, exporting Chevrolet-branded cars to Europe and
other regions and accounting for about a quarter of GM's Chevy