Monday, July 27, 2009

As I mentioned before on this blog I was wrong in assuming that the police invasion had managed to dislodge the workers occupying the SSangyong Motor factory in Pyeongtaek, Korea. The workers involved retreated to the plant paint shop where they have continued to hold out despite repeated assaults on the part of the police. Here is the latest news from the Korea Times. The following comes to Molly via the online labour solidarity site Labour Start.
Ssangyong Union Proposes Talks:
Management Demands Union Stop Call for Withdrawal of Layoffs
By Park Si-soo
Staff Reporter
Laid-off union members of Ssangyong Motor said Monday they are open to talks with management to end their occupation of a building in the company's factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.
The remarks came two days after management refused to hold talks. Ssangyong executives are far from positive about the proposal, saying it was a union tactic to buy time and take the upper hand in negotiations.
Representatives of around 600 striking protesters occupying a paint shop for more than two months held a press conference on its rooftop using a loud speaker.
``From now on, we will engage in any talks with the government and management to end the deadlock as early as possible,'' union leader Han Sang-gyun said. ``If they refuse, they should be held liable for any problems to the company including its bankruptcy.''
Han urged police to end their bid to disperse protesters with negotiations underway.
The union wants the firm to rehire laid-off workers immediately, which management says cannot do.
Ssangyong management is refusing to return to the negotiations. ``We told the government that we will not have a meeting with them for a while,'' a Ssangyong executive said following the press conference. ``This is to buy time. We will not fall into the trap they set up.''
Labor Minister Lee Young-hee denounced the striking workers for their indifference to the firm's possibility of bankruptcy in the wake of the protest.
``It's sad to know that hundreds of workers had been laid off. But it was inevitable to revive the ailing company,'' Lee told reporters at his office in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. ``They should keep in mind that their sacrifice will help normalize the company and, in the long run, they will get an opportunity to return to their workplace.''
Police confronted laid-off union workers inside the factory for the eighth consecutive day on Monday.
Here is a further report, also via Labour Start, from the American Chronicle about what the Korean workers are facing in their struggle.
Korean Workers Defy Police and Continue 2-Month Sit-in at Auto Plant:
Harry Kelber
July 26, 2009
Hundreds of discharged workers from South Korea´s Ssangyong Motors have continued to clash with police as they resist efforts to end a two-month siege at the company´s main factory. Up to 600 workers have been occupying the paint shop part of the factory in protest against massive job cuts that are part of a company restructuring plan.
Around 3,000 riot police have been deployed to the factory and on July 22, police helicopters dumped tear gas into the plant in an effort to force the discharged workers to leave. A company spokesman said the protesters are believed to have stocked up on enough food and other necessities to hold out for a considerable time. A police officer said " We´re fully ready to move in, but haven´t set the timing, because a lot of flammable material, such as paint and thinner, is scattered in the paint shop. For now, it is difficult to move in."
Lee Chang-kun, a spokesman for the union, said "If police decide to move in, then it would mean they don´t care, even if dozens die." The protest began on May 21 and has paralyzed production at the plant. Ssangyong's labor union rejected a compromise offer from the management in late June. Since then, there has been no contact between the company and the strikers.

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