[EDITORIALS]The battle of SsangyongThe labor union at Ssangyong Motor Co. is intensifying its struggle by announcing a plan to stage a large-scale rally at Gwacheon, Gyeonggi province, on Wednesday. The union, which opposes the sale of the company and insists on independent management, warned that its members would stage a general strike if negotiation with the Bluestar Group of China continue. As the situation gets more serious, So Jin-kwan, president of Ssangyong Motor Co., appealed to the union members. “If things go this way, it will ruin us all. For our survival, selling the company is the only way. Please don’t stage a general strike,” he said.
Ssangyong Motor Co. revived last year by recording a net profit of 320 billion won ($274 million). And there are people who oppose the idea of selling part of one of our key industries to our competitor, China.
But it is not at all persuasive that the union, on whatever grounds, opposes the decision of the creditors and disrupts an audit of the company. That is outside the union’s competence. The decision whether to sell the company or not is a vital managerial right in which labor cannot interfere. The Supreme Court has ruled, “When the interests of management and labor are in conflict because of the sale of a company, the managerial interests have priority.” Ssangyong Motor Co. chose Bluestar Group as its priority negotiating partner through international bidding last year. The question is how to get a proper price for the company, not demands to return everything to square one.
The prospects of the automotive industry are not clear, even if a company invested huge amounts of money in production facilities and technology development. The market here is glutted. The finances of Ssangyong are still shaky.
Bluestar has promised to spend $1 billion for technology development and has promised to keep workers. The union should see if it keeps that promise after the sale, not strike first. If the deal with Bluestar fails, Ssangyong may go into court receivership.
If workers with red headbands can disrupt this sale, the image of Korea as a labor battleground will be reinforced, and hopes of foreign investment and economic recovery will be dashed. The union must listen to Mr. So’s appeal.