Strikes and lockouts in South Korea

As the economic recession hits South Korea, striking car workers have been locked out of their factory while earlier in the week construction workers go on strike in and around Seoul.

Submitted by Ed on June 1, 2009

Ssangyong Motor Company has locked striking workers out of its plant to stop them disrupting production at the carmaker, which is in bankruptcy protection.

Unionised workers at the South Korean automaker have been on strike since May 21, demanding management keep the assembly line workforce at current levels in a self-rescue plan the company is devising under a court order.

The carmaker's management said in a statement it had to impose the lockout after unionised workers began an illegal sit-in and blocked managers from going to work.

Ssangyong management has called for more than 2,600 workers to be laid off (36% of its workforce), triggering protests from the workers. The labor union has called for the government's financial assistance to prevent massive layoffs amid the economic meltdown and help resuscitate the automaker by enlarging its market share. The company is 51-percent owned by China's top automaker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., which has balked at providing more support.

Construction workers strike
The Korean Construction Workers Union staged a strike earlier this week and held several rallies in and around Seoul and, according to some sources, has made progress on working conditions with the Land Ministry.

The union, which represents 25,000 workers across the country, held morning rallies in Daebang-dong, southwestern Seoul, and Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, that drew roughly 4,000 workers in total. Nearly 20,000 workers gathered in front of the government complex in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, for an afternoon demonstration (pictured above).

The union said it scheduled the strike in Seoul after it failed to reach an agreement on working conditions with the government on Tuesday. But the two sides were able to hammer out a partial agreement that covered a key union demand relating to the use of non-union workers on construction sites, according to a press release issued yesterday by the ministry.

The union claims that the government is increasingly using outside workers and contractors on construction projects, diminishing opportunities for union members. It also wants the government to provide guaranteed labor rights for so-called special workers - mainly those who are self-employed.

Additionally, the construction workers union wants help combating unemployment related to the economic downturn.

Oh I-taek, a senior executive of the construction union, said that union members now account for just 30 percent of all construction workers on construction sites.