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HHI workers violently object to DSME merger

May 29,2019
The proposed takeover of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) by Hyundai Heavy Industries is in peril as unionized workers violently opposed the company’s merger plan, which includes splitting the company into two.

As of Tuesday, Hyundai Heavy’s labor union had occupied for two days a community center in Ulsan reserved for the company’s shareholder meeting later this week. They also staged an eight-hour strike.

The workers plan to continue the strike until the Friday meeting.

“We need a strong vow from all union members to prevent the May 31 shareholder meeting that would decide on the split measure,” Hyundai Heavy’s labor union said in a statement last week.

“The 47 years of history for Hyundai Heavy Industries can be protected only when everyone fights with strong will.”

Shareholders of Hyundai Heavy are set to approve splitting the company into two separate entities at their meeting in Ulsan on Friday. The split is the first proposed step in the process of merging with DSME.

In March, Hyundai Heavy signed a 2 trillion won ($1.6 billion) deal with the Korea Development Bank to buy DSME. The state-run bank is the largest DSME shareholder, with a 55.7 percent stake.

Under the terms of the deal, Hyundai Heavy Industries is to be divided into an investment and R&D company and a reorganized Hyundai Heavy Industries, which will be responsible for its shipbuilding and offshore businesses.

The union has been strongly against the proposed merger, saying the deal will leave Hyundai Heavy in debt, and that would undoubtedly result in job cuts. It has been launching partial strikes on the matter since May 16 and began a full strike Tuesday.

Thirteen union members were arrested after clashing with the police when using force to enter the company’s office building in Seoul last Wednesday.

The violence continued Monday, as around 500 workers threw rocks and eggs in their attempt to enter Hyundai Heavy’s Ulsan office, hurting 15 employees. Management has been taking legal action over the union’s violent rallies and strikes.

Hyundai Heavy said Tuesday it has reported 42 leaders of the labor union to the Ulsan police on charges of obstruction and use of violence. Management also reported 13 union members to the Seoul police in relation to the violence last Wednesday in Seoul.

The company filed an injunction with an Ulsan court last week to prevent the union from interrupting the meeting.

Due to the union’s occupation of the meeting place, the community center could not run its school, fitness training facilities and entertainment complex.

The court ruled Monday that it is illegal for the union to block the entrance of shareholders or disturb the meeting in any manner. Violators are to be fined 50 million won for each offense.

The union strongly opposed the Monday ruling, saying it will work with the Korea Metal Workers’ Union and file a complaint to reverse the decision.

“This can’t be a decision from a right-minded judicial branch,” the union said in a statement Tuesday.

“We are only trying to protect the company from the Chung family destroying Hyundai Heavy Industries.”

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]


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