Ssangyong occupation update: August 2, 2009

Ssangyong occupation update: August 2, 2009

Talks between management and striking workers who've been occupying the factory have broken down. Electricity has also been turned off, in addition to water which was cut off two weeks ago.

From the Korea Times (with an obvious pro-company bias):

08-02-2009 18:15
Ssangyong Faces Liquidation After Labor Talks Fail

By Kim Rahn, Park Si-soo
Staff Reporters

Troubled Ssangyong Motor faces liquidation after last-ditch negotiations between management and union members representing laid-off workers collapsed Sunday.

Park Young-tae of Ssangyong management said there will be no more talks with the union unless it modifies its position.

The announcement came hours after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement in their four-day talks marathon on the number of layoffs.

"We proposed that we will guarantee 390 jobs, 40 percent of the laid-off employees, through leave without pay and by switching workers to salesmen, but the union insisted on a 100 percent job guarantee, which management could not accept," Park said.

He said the future of Ssangyong will be decided in accordance with the law and principle, indicating police may be asked to disperse occupants of the plant.

Park also said that 4,600 retained workers would enter the factory soon to resume production, raising concerns over clashes between laid-off and retained workers.

Unless the situation at the plant returns to normal, management will seek liquidation, Park said. "We will submit a new self-rescue plan, which will be for bankruptcy, not for merger and acquisition. It will be a procedure for liquidation," he said.

Creditors have already said that they will ask the court to liquidate the plant unless production resumes by Wednesday.

The union said, "We cannot tolerate dismissal of any of the 700 workers, who have struggled together for over two months."

But both sides expressed hope, saying they still want peaceful resolution of the dispute for the revival of the company. Ssangyong sustained $243 million in lost production due to the stoppage of operations, according to the carmaker.

Even if a dramatic accord is reached, many analysts are skeptical about the chances of Ssangyong's survival.

Many of the retained workers say plant normalization might be possible, but that restoring chilled relations with the dismissed could be all but impossible.

"They wielded steel pipes and even shot pieces of metal at their longtime colleagues," said one employee who has worked at the paint shop for two decades. "I know they are in a desperate situation. But how could they take such action against us. I don't want to stay in the same room as them." Dozens of his colleagues standing nearby nodded.

Ending the occupation doesn't necessarily mean the normalization of production, Ssangyong executives and employees said.

A production executive said it would take around two weeks to resume full operations, but added, "Full capacity will only be resumed from October at the earliest."

But he also questioned whether parts supply deliveries will be made on time.

Choi Byeong-hoon, a spokesman for Ssangyong creditors, said, "Except for 250 'big' Ssangyong parts suppliers, the other 1,900 smaller and marginal subcontractors are on the verge of going under, or have already gone bankrupt."

How well Ssangyong vehicles will sell here is doubtful as drivers will have second thoughts on buying Ssangyong cars in the future.

"This is the point that concerns us most," said a Ssangyong executive. "If our marketability is not restored soon, we will soon see funds needed to develop new cars dry up. This will lead to an exodus of investors in our company, which could cause greater damage than the standoff."

Additionally, it is feared that labor-management relations could also hamper future growth.

According to researchers, many computers containing confidential information on new vehicles have gone missing.

"Nobody knows where they are," one said. "I think launching any new model on schedule will now be very difficult."

Comments

Steven.
Aug 2 2009 22:22

What's the deal with those workers who aren't at work? Are most of them striking now, or are they being kept at home by the bosses because of the occupation and siege?

kbysf
Aug 3 2009 17:27

August 3 11:00 am Korea time

Almost 100 strikers left the occupation after the company declared no more negotiation and cut off electricity.
This morning, the company employees, scab workers came to the factory, 'ready to retrieve' the factory (It is said that 2000 people were summoned). The hired thugs and scabs are attacking the strikers and trying to clear barricades, invade the buildings. 4000 riot police are enclosing the factory with aerial ladders and forklifts, and at this time, the helicopter started throwing huge amount of liquid teargas bags and spraying (pouring) down liquid teargas.

(Several human right organizations gave a press conference today to report that they tested the liquid teargas and found dangerous toxic ingredient (dichloromethane), even 40% in dilution which can cause cancer. They urged police to stop use)

There was Ssangyong management meeting this morning and they confirmed that they won't accept the unions ' job secure for all' demand.

It looks like very dismal situation right now.

Steven.
Aug 3 2009 07:45

Yes, that sounds terrible... that so many of the workers are continuing to fight is extremely impressive though. It's interesting how different cultures affect workers struggles.

kbysf
Aug 3 2009 16:21

Solidarity Vigil

Aug 3, late night, outside the factory





Steven.
Aug 3 2009 23:04

Update from just now from Loren Goldner in South Korea:

Quote:
Negotiations between Ssangyong Motor Co. management and the Korean Metal Workers Union broke down again over the past weekend. The company was offering sales jobs and some rotating unpaid furlough for some of the 975 workers slated for layoff; the union remained firm on the position of no layoffs.

But this morning (Monday) a worker at a nearby plant who's been helping defend the factory against police and thugs wrote the following message:

"The fierce fighting has been taking place again.

The management has cut off the electricity finally. so the workers have managed to live with candles in the paint plant.
Police, hired thugs, and scabs are entering in order to seize that plant armed with pipes, slingshots, and cargo trucks, while the helicopter is flying over the roof of that plant.

Today, outside of the factory gate, there have been some clashes between scabs and solidarity people when the solidarity unit tried to enter the plant gate with water."

(Management had cut off water and electricity about two weeks ago. The occupying workers had retreated to the paint department where large amounts of flammable material supposedly made it less likely that the police would fire into the building. Electricity was maintained until yesterday, according to management, to prevent the deterioration of these flammable materials. Now even that is no longer a concern.)