[EDITORIALS]A no-win strike

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[EDITORIALS]A no-win strike

In only its second year as a private company, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction ended a 47-day strike and returned to operation. This comes as a relief, but, looking back on the conflict that lasted through the World Cup, it makes us wonder if there really was not a better way to handle the conflict on both sides. Rather than resolving the differences through dialogue, Doosan management and labor went head to head and only worsened the situation as emotions got the better of them.

The problem began in March when, at the recommendation of the metal workers' union, Doosan's labor union sought to represent the workers in collective bargaining. The company rejected the move, as it had the right to do. Two months of talks produced no progress and the union went on a strike. Regional labor relations commissions' recommendations that the union continue talks went all but ignored. There were clashes of force as the movement of supplies into the plants was blockaded by picketing union members and the company tried to force shipment out of the premises to meet orders. Tense moments only aggravated the emotional charge.

Dialogue was all but nonexistent during the development, and the two sides resorted to picketing and criminal charges in trying to break the deadlock. Financial losses piled up to an estimated 350 billion won ($294 million) and that is only for Doosan. Losses to suppliers and contractors will be hard to measure. Had it not been for the last-ditch effort by a team of arbitrators made up of local officials, religious leaders and the public, the strike would have been unstoppable.

The most disappointing aspect of the strike has been the distrust between the two sides. The union has been considered militant since the days of Korea Heavy Industries & Construction, the precursor to Doosan Heavy before privatization. There is every indication that it chose to turn the situation into a show of force against a new management. The company, for its part, was hardly forthcoming in dealing with the issue of collective bargaining, something that can be a very sensitive issue for the union. The two sides must recognize the significance of their deeds and come to a new awareness.
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