Friday, July 31, 2009

Molly has blogged on the subject of this factory occupation in Korea several times before, even making the mistake once of assuming that because the police had made an all-out assault on the workers that the occupation was finished. happily I was wrong. This group of workers have greater intelligence and staying power than the average summit-hopping anarchist- by a factor of 100 at least.
Here's the latest (yesterday) update on the situation from the LibCom site.
Ssangyong occupation update: day eleven, July 30, 2009:
Negotiations have occurred several times throughout the day. The major hurdle is layoffs: management says they're necessary; strikers won't budge and demand that no one be laid off, even if it requires less hours for everyone and work furloughs. For the government and management it is crucial to break the strike so that austerity can be imposed on other autoworkers, as well as in other sectors needing restructuring due to the crisis. The biggest creditor of Ssangyong is Hankook Bank, which is government owned.
***Update July 30, 2009***
The strikers are making I.W.W.-like demands that no one be laid off; they're willing to agree to a reduction in hours, including unpaid work furloughs, to protect the job security of all workers. Creditors are using the threat of bankruptcy and liquidation to pressure the strikers to end the occupation; the government is in collusion with management in wanting to crush the strike (and the union) and for production to continue with a smaller workforce.

Since government-owned Hankook Bank is the biggest creditor to Ssangyong Motors, it is important for them to have production resume with a weaker union and a leaner, more flexible workforce in order to find buyers for the remaining shares of the company. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) of China presently has a 51% share, but their main interest was technology transfer as they had no interest in investing capital in Ssangyong to resume production. This is all complicated because Korean courts currently control Ssangyong under the terms of court receivership.

The resolution of this strike has direct bearing on future attempts at restructuring by management at Kia Motors, GM/Daewoo, and the industry giant Hyundai Motors. Some of the fiercest struggles in the class war of the past have occurred at the various industrial subsidiaries of the Hyundai group. Ruling class interests hope to crush the Ssangyong occupation to dissuade other workers from following suit.
From Korea Times:
07-30-2009 18:10Breakthrough Expected in Ssangyong Negotiations
By Park Si-sooStaff Reporter
PYEONGTAEK, Gyeonggi Province ― Representatives of fired workers and the management of Ssangyong Motor met Thursday amid a warning from creditors that the troubled carmaker will be liquidated unless the factory is normalized by Aug.5.

Unlike in previous talks, hopes for a peaceful settlement are growing as the two sides are getting closer to narrowing their differences on key issues, officials from both sides said.

"We expect the two sides to reach a conclusion through the meeting," Choi Sang-jin, the spokesman for Ssangyong management, said at a makeshift press center set up in the factory's parking lot. Choi refused to elaborate on the agenda, but implied that progress had been made. "We don't know when an agreement will be made,"

The two sides said the negotiation would be the "last" to hammer out a conclusion.

"No matter what the conclusion will be, no further talks will take place afterward," said a leader of the laid-off workers. An accord might lead to the reinstatement of a portion of the dismissed workers.

In talks last Saturday, the sides were unable to reach a settlement, with the union demanding an immediate cancellation of the layoffs.

Following the breakdown of the talks, a representative of the creditors announced a plan to liquidate the company, thus forcing the two sides to engage in last-ditch talks to avoid liquidation.

In a phone interview with The Korea Times, Wednesday, Choi Byeong-hoon, spokesman for the creditors, said they have reached an accord that liquidating the firm was a better option than waiting until Sept. 15 a court-set deadline for the company's management to submit a self-rescue plan to avoid liquidation.

The occupation began when 36 percent of the workforce was dismissed. So far, the firm has sustained $243 million in losses.

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