Ssangyong occupation update: day ten, July 29, 2009

Ssangyong occupation update: day ten, July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009 is day 10 (corrected: the police assault began July 20). Medical workers and other community solidarity supporters attempted to deliver water to the factory in the morning. In the afternoon KCTU organized a rally of 3,000, only to have it attacked by as many as 10 helicopters dropping bags of toxic tear gas, in addition to 500 riot cops attacking the demonstrators and watercanon trucks spraying teargas on them.

***Update July 29, 2009***

Continued police presence around Ssangyong factory:

***Morning hours***

Coalition of groups (religious, NGOs, progressive parties, etc.) in solidarity with strikers, hold a rally near factory gates:
Medical workers attempt to deliver water to strikers: Police helicopter overhead:

***3:00 p.m.***

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) organized a solidarity demonstration in downtown Pyeongtaek in order to demand "humanitarian aid" to the strikers, but the government banned the demo because they claimed the previous rally on July 25 turned "violent."

As many as 10 helicopters hovered as low as 30 meters above the crowd: While dropping bags of the mixture of tear gas and other corrosive chemicals:

The demonstration was broken up, so the crowd attempted to march to the Ssangyong factory gates. Once the crowd approached the factory, they met an unprovoked attack by 2 watercanon trucks which sprayed them with water mixed with tear gas: And helicopters also continued to bombard the demonstrators with bags of the toxic teargas mixture:
Even a Korean Democratic Labor Party (KDLP) senator (center, with beard) on the march was hit with a bag of teargas:
Around 500 riot cops attacked the crowd, chasing some into nearby fields:

***Evening***

The families of the factory occupiers continued their vigil outside the factory gates throughout the evening: Where they were joined by the student section of KDLP for a candlelight vigil:
Doctors and other medical workers joined the vigil and decried the heath crisis the police have created in preventing medical treatment or vital supplies from going into the factory. They pointed out combatants in war don't prevent enemies from attending to their wounded.

Here's a report from the July 29, 2009 Korea Times, which is published by the same company as the bourgeois Hankook Ilbo:

Quote:
Ssangyong Factory Turning Into "Refugee Camp"

By Park Si-soo
Staff Reporter

The fired workers, who have occupied the paint shop of a Ssangyong Motor factory for 68 days, are living in dismal conditions as they have been denied food and water for about a week.

Visitors to the building, including doctors and medical staff said the situation will turn worse as dozens are already injured and around 10 occupants are suffering from depression.

"It's like a refugee camp," said Baek Nam-joon, a member of a humanitarian doctors' association. "Protesters have been living in a hell-like environment."

Baek said a sour, acid smell is lingering inside the building following days of tear-gas spraying by police helicopters.

"It was hard to breathe," he said. Many of them are exposed to dehydration as drinking water was drying up. Doctors estimated that 200 were injured.

"Six of them need an immediate surgery or medical care. Many have severe injuries, including broken ribs or joints incurred during clashes with riot police."

According to Baek, they are given one or two rice balls per day. "Toilets are in dismal condition as the water supply has been cut off."

Hundreds of protesters have complained of a lack of sleep, he said.

"They sleep just two or three hours a day as police helicopters above the building generate unbearable noise."

Lee Chang-geun, spokesman for the unionized protesters, said noise from helicopters and speakers installed nearby the building was adding to the terrible conditions. "We have no food, no water and no sleep."

Compensation Suit

The workers are also facing damage suits that could deprive them of all their remaining assets.

The company said Wednesday it will seek compensation of 5 billion won from the occupants in a damage suit, raising the cumulative amount to 15 billion won.

Meanwhile, Ssangyong creditors will submit a petition for early liquidation to the Seoul Central District Court. The court has set Sept. 15 as a deadline for the company's management to submit a self-rescue plan to avoid liquidation.

Choi Byeong-hoon, spokesman for the creditors said, "We have reached an accord that liquidating the firm is a better option than waiting until the deadline."

The petition will be submitted by Aug. 5.

Choi said they will also file a compensation suit against the company, saying the production stoppage inflicted about 89 billion won ($71.7 million) in losses to creditors.

Despite the warning, no development has been made in labor-management talks since the first round of negotiations broke down Saturday.

The two sides have not moved from their original positions on key issues. The union is demanding the cancellation of the layoffs, while management said it would not begin talks until that demand was dropped.

Comments

MT
Jul 29 2009 18:09

What is meant by this?:

Quote:
The workers are also facing damage suits that could deprive them of all their remaining assets.

That the workers have a share in the company? Or they will not get compensation for repudiation? Or that their personal property and money could be lost because of the damages they are causing by occupying the factory?

Anyway - is anyone here working on some solidarity protests. Any organisations people here are part of? Has anyone thought of the idea of for example informing trade unions in their countries? Any ideas for actions on economic level? Or any other ideas?

I just feel like people are just reading the usual everyday news about what is going on...

Steven.
Jul 29 2009 18:42

Here is an update written by a worker from a local plant, who is supporting the occupation, e-mailed to us by Loren Goldner:

Quote:
The following is a message sent on July 27 on the state of the Ssangyong Motor Co. strike, by a worker from a nearby plant deeply involved in supporting the strike.

(For those of you learning of this strike for the first time, it involves a factory occupation in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, which began on May 22 when management announced layoffs, forced retirement and firings of 2000 out of 7000 workers at the plant near Seoul.)

If you wish to contribute to a rank-and-file strike fund, contact me off list.

Loren Goldner
lrgoldner@yahoo.com

“The struggle at Ssangyong motors continues as follows.

Starting July 20th, with a court order, more than 3,000 riot police, including a ranger unit, tried to seize the plant and ordered workers out of the factory. After the workers rejected this order, they launched an attack against occupying workers for 7 consecutive days, and this attack involved with hired thugs and scabs from workers not laid off.

The police are conducting round-the-clock ideological propaganda, and a police helicopter is flying low to prevent workers from sleeping and to unnerve them.

They have cut off the supplies of water and and gas and are refusing factory entry humanitarian medical help. (Electricity has been left on to prevent paint and other flammable materials in the paint plant from decomposing.)

From the 21st onward, the police have been dropping tear gas from helicopters onto workers struggling on the roof of the paint sector. That gas includes a toxic material that can melt sponge rubber.

Intermittently, when the riot police are trying to get into the paint plant, they are using a special gun using firing 50,000 volts and nails, while the scabs are using slingshots from the building opposite.

Naturally, we are fighting the police with iron pipes and Molotov cocktails on the street in front of the factory to defend the strike.

Approximately 700 workers are eating a rice ball with salt instead of regular meals and drinking boiled rain. Though many workers have been injured during the fight, they are continuing their struggle resolutely.

On Jul. 20th, one union official’s wife committed suicide at her home. Even though her husband was not laid off, he participated in the struggle despite several threats from management. His wife was just 29 years old. Thus far five people have died or committed suicide in as a result of this struggle.

The unions have called the following strikes:

Jul. 22. KMWU (Korean Metal Workers Union, which organizes the plant) 4 hour strike.

Jul 23. KMWU: 6 hour strike.

Jul 25 The KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) held a rally in front of the Pyeongteck railway station.

On the 25th, the workers and other participants, armed with iron pipes and stones from the sidewalk, fought against riot police at the end of that rally, while attempting to march to the Ssangyong factory gate. A brutal attack by police forced us to retreat from the front of the factory. Struggles continued late into the night on the streets of Pyeongtaek.

We of the KMWU are scheduled to launch a 6 -hour general strike on July 29th but as you know, it is so difficult to mobilize all union members to participate in that strike.

Management has been seeking the moral high ground, claiming they may be forced into bankruptcy.

Amid growing pressure from some civic organizations, and some congressman, management and the Ssangyong union were scheduled to meet on July 25th. But the management cancelled that meeting unilaterally, for the sole reasons (they claimed) that the workers still throwing bolts and that they can’t accept the union’s demand of no layoffs but with all dismissed workers rotating on unpaid temporary retirement.

The management rejected union’s concession, and said that they will only accept layoffs.

As of today (July 27) the Ssangyong workers held a press conference and another rally in front of the paint plant, escaping for a while the suffocating atmosphere inside the paint plant.

The demands of that rally were:

1) Withdrawal of the police
2) Direct negotiation with management and government
3) Release of the investigation for illegal effluence in the use of hybrid diesel engine technology.

Finally I’ll finish this, referring to the last sentence of the press conference ;

“ ….We have been doing our best to solve this dispute with the principle of peaceful settlement with dialogue. Nevertheless, if this kind of brutal, deadly repression continues, we openly declare our resolute will to fight to the death..

Those of us in here will show our determination to die to the world not only as workers but also as human beings.

We will fight unflinchingly and regain our rights and return to our homes at last.”

P.S ( As I returned to my home, I heard that the police have waged another all-out brutal attack on the workers. Today and this week will be a crucial week.)

Hieronymous
Jul 29 2009 19:21
Quote:
What is meant by this?:
Quote:

The workers are also facing damage suits that could deprive them of all their remaining assets.

That the workers have a share in the company? Or they will not get compensation for repudiation? Or that their personal property and money could be lost because of the damages they are causing by occupying the factory?

South Korean courts can issue injunctions that not only seize union assets, but individual worker's assets and garnish their wages as well.

Last week a woman committed suicide; her husband was a worker who was an official in the union and not laid off. But he went out on strike and occupied the factory in solidarity with the laid off workers. Government and company representatives constantly visited her and harassed her with the threat that the court would seize her home and the family's bank account. She couldn't take it any longer and killed herself.

neoclassic
Jul 29 2009 21:39

Are the KCTU or other bodies asking for international solidarity?

The second they say they need it, people will respond, but we need to know that they are asking for it.

Hieronymous
Jul 30 2009 02:19

On July 28, 2009, a small group held a demo in front of the South Korean Consulate in San Francisco. Sadly, it was very poorly organized and even more poorly promoted.

Here's the Indymedia post:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/07/28/18612908.php

MT
Jul 30 2009 06:29

LETTER TO LOREN:

Quote:
On Jul. 20th, one union official’s wife committed suicide at her home. Even though her husband was not laid off, he participated in the struggle despite several threats from management. His wife was just 29 years old. Thus far five people have died or committed suicide in as a result of this struggle.

20th JULY NEWS - http://libcom.org/forums/news/ssangyong-factory-occupation-raided-riot-police-27062009#comment-335333:

Quote:
Finally, at least 4 people have died during the strike. Two died from the stress of the layoffs that sparked the strike, that are thought to have been heart attacks. Another autoworker applied for voluntary early retirement, but committed suicide out of disgust. This morning, a union officials wife killed herself after Ssangyong company officials repeatedly visited her home and threatened her with financial damages due to the strike.

Just in case someone would need to have the clarification if the number is 4 or 5...