[EDITORIALS]Strikers have wonTwo of South Korea’s leading companies, Hyundai Motor Co. and Posco, are struggling because of prolonged strikes by union workers. At Hyundai Motor, workers have been on a partial strike for 18 days and the company has halted exports. Construction workers have occupied Posco’s headquarters for eight days, costing the company 10 billion won ($10.5 million) per day.
The two companies have been supporting the entire country by earning foreign currency and offering jobs. Last year, exports by Hyundai Motor accounted for 13 percent of Korea’s foreign shipments, and the company accounts for 8.8 percent of manufacturing jobs here. Posco, which supplies steel to shipmakers and auto plants, accounts for 2.2 percent of Korea’s gross domestic product. The steel company employs 150,000 workers in Pohang. A third of residents there work for Posco or its subcontractors.
These companies are losing competitiveness because of the strikes, meaning the country is losing its competitiveness as well. The average annual paycheck of a worker at Hyundai Motor is over 50 million won. This figure is in the top 10 percent of wages of urban workers. But workers at Hyundai Motor are still demanding a pay increase of 9.1 percent.
As workers at Ssangyong Motor Co., GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. and Kia Motors Corp also stage strikes, there have been problems in producing cars. And now, when Korea’s exports have been damaged because of high oil prices and the strong Korean won, the carmaker that leads the country’s exports is being ruined.
The headquarters of Posco is being occupied and is in chaos. Workers throw rocks and plastic bottles; when some strikers want to leave the building, hard-line union workers block them. Some union workers belonging to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions came to Pohang to “help” the strikers and ended up beating policemen with pipes. These illegal and violent acts continue, but the authorities are not doing anything. The prime minister said that illegal acts would be punished sternly. The labor minister said that illegal strikers would be dispersed by force unless they ended their occupation of the building. This is the definition of “lip service.” Unions are not afraid of Seoul’s oral warnings. We are fed up with an administration that does nothing to stop hard-line unions while talking about principles.
This is the country we live in: Companies that can make money cannot export because of union workers. Small and medium sized companies cannot export because they are not competitive enough. So what kind of business should someone go into to make money and help Korea grow? Does this irresponsible administration deserve to be called a government?