Friday, August 7, 2009

Ssangyong strike ends with a armistice...

After a two month long occupation that was filled with numerous attacks by police, including a 4 day counteroffensive this week, fighting between scabs and the striking workers, tear gas bombing from helicopters, and numerous failed attempts at making a deal, the two sides finally reached an agreement this week. According to the KCTU website the following agreement was made:

ü Union members who are affected by the layoffs, are allowed to make a choice of unpaid leave, transfers to sales positions, transfers to spin-offs, or voluntary resignation. 48 % of restructured people are being given unpaid leave or are being transferred to sales positions, and 52 % are voluntarily resigning or shifting to spin-offs. (However, what is the '100%' out of which the ratio is applied is subject to additional negotiations for details.)

ü After one year, depending on production levels, workers on unpaid leave are allowed to engage in job rotation and 2-day work shift system will be implemented. Workers who are transferred into sales positions will be provided with wages of 500,000 Won (ed note: that is about $400) per month for one year.

ü Workers who take an unpaid leave, transfer to sales positions or voluntarily retire during this restructuring period will be fairly reinstated or rehired if a demand for new workers arises in the future as a result of an improvement in the company’s financial situation.

ü An additional two-month voluntary retirement allowance will be paid to workers taking unpaid leave or retiring voluntarily, while livelihood security support, such as job placement, will be provided in cooperation with central and local governments and cooperating firms.

ü The management will withdraw criminal proceedings against the trade union and its members in order to encourage good willingness for the revival of Ssangyong Motors. Civil liability will be also called off when the company’s revival plan is approved.

The union has essentially backed off on the "no lay-off" platform in hopes to get some protection for those laid off. Fears of a brutal police crackdown leading to tragic consequences at Ssangyong probably influenced the union to make such a deal along with the threats of liquidation of the company. It will be a while before how effective this deal will turn out for the workers, though I imagine there will be some conflict within those workers on who is going to leave and who is going to shift over.

Problems are still ahead though. 96 workers are currently in jail and the union might face giant legal fines from the government for their action. We will not see the conclusion of this until much later.

UPDATE 1: has some nice photos from the scenes today in its article. They also note that 20 to 30 workers are still in the factory refusing to back down. I'll post my own analysis probably Monday.

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