Easing labor relations
The 77-day strike at Ssangyong Motor has finally come to an end, leaving in its wake a great deal of damage to the company and its employees. One could say that both the management and the labor union are the losers in this debacle. But now is the time to leave the fiasco behind.
Above all, we need to take this incident as an opportunity to push labor-management relations to a whole new level, one in which both sides can forge a more constructive relationship focused on making better companies.
The most urgent task at hand is preventing illegal and violent protests and strikes. A labor strike that uses a wide variety of fatal weapons ranging from Molotov cocktails to bolts and giant slingshots can no longer be called a labor activity. Images of the plant engulfed in the blaze and others like it that looked more like warfare than a labor protest have caused disappointment among the public.
The government needs to make sure such unacceptable practices are not repeated by holding all of the individuals behind the protest legally responsible for their actions.
The labor unions of individual companies have long relied on the support of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions or the Democratic Labor Party whenever they wanted to incite certain actions, but practices like these should also come to an end.
These organizations are hardly affected by what happens to Ssangyong Motor, or whether or not the company collapses. It is only the employees who will be hurt by the firm’s possible collapse.
Look what happened at Ssangyong Motor. A bunch of outsiders who are not stakeholders in the company’s fate came onto the scene and instigated the crisis. The agreement between labor and management would have been made sooner, and the related damage would have been kept to a minimum, without the interference of those outsiders.
The reason the wives of Ssangyong Motor workers knelt down in front of Democratic Labor Party leader Kang Ki-kab, who stayed on the scene, and begged him to please “go back to the National Assembly,” was clear.
It will take effort, including painful but necessary layoffs, to reinvigorate Ssangyong, a company that posted a loss of more than 700 billion won ($570 million) last year.
But the government and local politicians have made a habit of intervening in such crises. And we believe that is the biggest reason why we are seeing militant labor-management relations mired with illegal and violent protests.
We can no longer afford to have such difficult labor-management relations. It is time for a lasting solution.