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GM's South Korean workers OK wage deal after strike hits output

SEOUL (Reuters) - General Motors' South Korean workers have approved an annual wage deal, ending 13 days of partial strikes at the base where the U.S. automaker produces more than 40 percent of its Chevy-branded cars, a union spokesman said on Friday.

A total of 54.3 percent of union voters approved the pact, which includes bonuses of 10 million Korean won ($9,000) and a promise of no layoffs, union spokesman Choi Jong-hak said.

The union's leadership had earlier raised concerns that GM may cut its footprint in South Korea, a key Asian manufacturing base and engineering-design hub for its mini and small cars like the Spark.

GM said late year that it will not produce the next-generation Cruze compact in South Korea, sparking union jitters about a potential restructuring. GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson and other GM executives complained that an ongoing wage fight would make it even more expensive to produce cars in South Korea.

GM Korea's labor union, which is seen by the management as the most uncooperative among its overseas peers, staged partial strikes for 124 hours from July 4 to July 23, after its worst walkout in a decade last year that led to a production loss of 40,000 vehicles.

A GM Korean spokesman declined to disclose how many cars were affected by the latest disputes and declined to comment directly on the new pact.

The deal, which was reached on Tuesday, two months after annual wage talks kicked off, came as union members are bracing for a vote to pick a new union leader in September.

South Korea is one of GM's biggest overseas manufacturing bases, producing more than four out of 10 Chevrolet vehicles sold globally. In particular, almost all Chevy cars sold in Europe are exported from South Korea.

Last year, GM Korea sold domestically and exported more than 2.07 million vehicles, including so-called "knock down kits," primarily under the Chevrolet brand. A knock-down kit is a partially completed set of vehicle parts that can be exported and assembled in another country or region.

GM Korea, South Korea's third-biggest automaker after homegrown Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS>, saw its first-half sales fall 2 percent as weak economies in South Korea and Europe sapped demand.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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