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Pohang Workers Angry as Strike Drags

Posted September. 02, 2006 07:00,   


September 1 marked the Pohang Construction Labor Union strike’s three-month continuance.

While there is no possibility for any agreement between labor and management, POSCO has made a new contract to restart construction on a next generation steel production facility in Pohang Steel Works. POSCO and other representatives asked the union for its final answer in a temporary general meeting. About a thousand union members gathered in front of Pohang City Hall on September 1 to call on the city for arbitration.

POSCO’s First Contract with an Outside Company –

On August 31, POSCO made a contract with Seohee Construction to restart its finex facility construction, 80 percent of which was completed. Seohee Construction is going to restart the construction from September 4 with non-union member workers and those from outside.

POSCO Construction has so far made contracts with about hundred subcontractors. In the process, these subcontractors created a construction labor union. If an outside company participates in POSCO’s constructions, the exclusive position of the union will be challenged.

A Blow to Subcontractors –

POSCO Construction’s decision to give up the finex construction made a direct impact on subcontractors, especially on about seventy companies specializing in electricity and machinery.

These companies are now in serious financial stringency as they spent huge amounts of money on fixed expenses without any income for the past two months. As POSCO gave up finex construction, contracts with about ten construction companies were terminated.

Representatives held a temporary general meeting on August 31 to ask the union for its position and examine the possibility of discontinuing business. If they decide to close business, about a thousand workers are likely to lose their jobs. The number of the unemployed will increase before Chuseok, Korea’s Thanksgiving Day, as about 3,500 union members who worked for POSCO will lose their jobs.

Internal Conflicts Within the Union–

The union leadership is trying to stop its members from leaving the union by saying, “We can make contracts with other companies and continue to work even though business is closed.” But there are signs of a split between the unyielding leadership and members who want to return to construction sites.

In the union’s gathering in a downtown area on August 31, a considerable number of members asked the executives of the union to “explain the tentative agreement made between labor and management last month.” As the leadership stopped a negotiation committee member from explaining the agreement, there was a clash between union members.

A thousand union members gathered in front of Pohang City Hall on September 1 and demanded the city’s arbitration. A city official said, “There seems nothing Pohang City can do as labor and management are turning their backs to each other.”