Saving Ssangyong

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Saving Ssangyong

The crisis at Ssangyong Motor is on the verge of erupting into a clash between Ssangyong employees and striking union workers.

With vehicle production at Ssangyong Motor’s plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on hold for over a month, employees tried to enter the plant on Friday to “save the company.”

Meanwhile, fights between striking union workers and company employees have continued, resulting in around 20 people injured.

The news is quite horrific, what with people who once worked side by side now hitting each other with steel pipes and other objects.

Fortunately, the outburst was stopped in the encampment, but some of the unionized workers have now moved to a nearby car-painting factory, which has created a potentially dangerous situation because the factory is filled with chemicals.

What the labor and management at Ssangyong need to do is communicate with each other and try once more to compromise.

Most importantly, however, violence should not be used for any reason.

The whole debacle at Ssangyong is a result of the crisis the company found itself in following the global economic slowdown. The management cannot argue with the court, which said it would not grant the company bankruptcy protection unless it cut its workforce - and there is no way that the labor union doesn’t know that.

Unfortunate as it is, it seems there is no way for the company to avoid layoffs.

Of course, we acknowledge that this will place the workers who will lose their jobs overnight into a devastating situation, but protesting against the restructuring plan without the basis to do so would be like saying that if they have to go, they will take down the other employees with them.

The striking union members must face facts and have the wisdom to imagine the results of their actions.

It’s not too late for renegotiation.

The company’s offer to provide employment at subsidiaries or sales branches is an alternative worth looking into.

Labor and management should also take a look at what Daewoo Motor did after the Asian financial crisis, when it laid employees off but reinstated them later.

Time is running out for Ssangyong Motor. As long as the strike continues, the company’s value will continue to fall. With the September court receivership deadline fast approaching, discussions about employment will hold little meaning if things go much further.

What good is blame if the company collapses? Labor and management must collaborate on ending the strike as soon as possible and start negotiating again.

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