중앙데일리

Court orders car factory cleared of striking workers

Possible fire at Ssangyong feared as police face flammable liquid stores  PLAY AUDIO

July 21,2009
Striking Ssangyong Motor workers yesterday use a slingshot to launch screw bolts and nuts to block the company’s management and police from entering the plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi. Ssangyong Motor, maker of sport-utility vehicles and 51 percent owned by Chinese automaker SAIC Motor Corp., secured protection under court receivership in February and has called for more than 1,000 workers to be laid off, triggering protests from the labor union. Police attempted to enter the plant yesterday to evict the unionists. [REUTERS]
Tension escalated yesterday after a local court approved an eviction of Ssangyong Motor Company’s unionized workers, who have occupied a car paint factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, for 60 days demanding their jobs back.

At 10:05 a.m., five officials at Suwon District Court’s Pyeongtaek branch passed through the main gate leading to the factory occupied by 600 workers. Officials attempted to hand workers the court’s eviction order.

Workers ignored the order and from the factory roof flung nuts and bolts from slingshots at officials, who backed down at 11: 35 a.m.

“We tried to deliver the court’s order three times, but left because they resisted,” a court official said.

With court approval, over 3,000 police officers were dispatched and surrounded four gates of the factory around 10 a.m.

In case of a clash, 25 fire trucks, six ambulances, and a helicopter were also on standby.

Police warned workers through a loudspeaker that they would be forcibly evicted if they didn’t end the strike. Police encroached on the factory by 50 more meters to set up barricades.

“Police will pay the price if they attempt to get in,” responded a spokesman for the workers.

When police tried to get closer, workers responded by rolling flaming tires towards them. They also peppered officers with slingshots and threw Molotov cocktails.

Ssangyong Motor Company said it cut off gas and water supplies to the factory at 11:20 a.m.

“This is to urge the workers to end the protest and leave the factory as soon as possible,” a company official said.

The company stopped sending daily food and medical supplies on July 17.

A woman surnamed Park, the wife of a senior unionized worker, surnamed Lee, hanged herself at her house yesterday morning. “My wife suffered immense stress after she received a summons sent by police and a document demanding compensation for damages from the company,” Lee said.

National Police Commissioner General Kang Hee-rak said police will not rush to get into the factory.

“[Police] need to act patiently when entering the factory because there are flammable materials such as gasoline and paint thinner stored there,” Kang said. “Presently, police only need the factory’s main building and research building.”

Police said they will keep forces stationed at the Pyeongtaek factory to help the company resume work at the two buildings. Ssangyong says the car paint factory contains at least of 240,000 liters of flammables.

“Just a spark will completely blow up the factory,” Song Seung-ki, a senior worker in Ssangyong’s production division, said. “The paint factory is much like a powder keg.”

Lee Youn-ho, minister of knowledge economy, warned that if Ssangyong Motor continues to halt production at its plant in Pyeongtaek, the automaker will have no other choice but to file for bankruptcy.

“At a time like this, when the global vehicle market has contracted, the possibility that Ssangyong Motor - which has seen its market competitiveness fall - can survive is problematic,” the minister said in meeting with lawmakers at the National Assembly.

Lee said although it is the court’s exclusive right to decide whether to keep the company afloat, bankruptcy would be inevitable if the illegal takeover of the plant by workers continues after the end of this month.

Lee added that the government will do its best to minimize the loss suffered from Ssangyong Motor’s parts suppliers due to the ongoing strike by helping them expand their markets overseas.


By Kim Mi-ju, Lee Ho-jeong [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]




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