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Management-Labor Clash at Ssangyong Motor Ends

Posted June. 29, 2009 09:29,   


The two-day clash between management and labor at troubled Ssangyong Motor ended yesterday after non-unionized employees gave up trying to enter the plant to resume operations.

The company, however, faces the real danger of bankruptcy due to the prolonged disruption in production as the union announced it would continue to occupy the plant.

Ssangyong’s two court-appointed representatives Lee Yu-il and Park Yeong-tae held a news conference Saturday at the main building of the company’s plant in Pyeongtaek, about 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

“We came to the conclusion that our efforts alone can no longer protect our workplace. Therefore, we decided to leave the plant even though it breaks our hearts,” they said.

The company added in a statement, “Our employees tried to enter the plant with their bare hands to protect our workplace and resume production due to rising bankruptcy fears stemming from 37 days of illegal plant occupation by the union.”

Ssangyong management also condemned police for lack of support, saying, “Even when 60 employees were injured by the union’s violence, police withdrew at night instead of actively responding to the violence, thereby leaving our employees at risk.”

“They also failed to stop many protesters who attended an assembly led by the Korea Metal Workers Union, a unit of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, from illegally entering the plant. It has become impossible for our employees to protect the plant by themselves.”

Ssangyong also warned that if the union continues to strike, the company will go bankrupt and 4,000 workers will lose their jobs. The company, however, will no longer send employees to try to enter the plant.

One Ssangyong executive said, “We’ve done everything we can. It is now up to the union to decide whether it will push the company into bankruptcy or not.”

The union-occupied Pyeongtaek plant over the weekend descended into utter chaos due to extremely violent clashes that broke out. Pieces of tents, drums and fire extinguishers were scattered all over the place, carrying the stench of burning tires.

Union members checked the facilities in and out of the plant in getting ready for another “live-or-die” strike.

The union also held a news conference yesterday morning in front of the main gate of the plant. “The entry of executives and employees into the facility was part of a ploy to take definitive steps to dismantle the union. Though they have stopped such an attempt, we will continue to fight together with civic groups to brace for future attacks,” it said.

The civic organization National Action Committee also said in the news conference, “We filed a complaint with police against the automaker’s two court-appointed representatives and security guards for violation of a law governing the latter.”

Eighty people were injured in the two-day clash, according to Gyeonggi Province rescue workers. Police arrested 20 people, including seven union members, on charges of illegal occupation, obstruction of public duty, and failure to obey withdrawal orders.

A Pyeongtaek police source said, “We withdrew from the site Saturday afternoon as no further clashes between both sides were expected. If an additional clash is expected in the future, we will prevent it by sending our forces.”

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