Police bust up strike at Yoosung
Thousands of riot police descended on an auto component company yesterday to bust a strike that was crippling Korea’s auto industry.
After negotiations broke down at around 3 p.m. between the management of Yoosung Enterprise, which makes key components for all Korean car manufacturers, and the company’s labor union, policemen stormed the company’s factory in Asan, South Chungcheong, which had been occupied by about 600 striking workers. The strike began last Wednesday.
According to South Chungcheong Policy Agency, 2,800 riot policemen moved toward the factory at around 4:00 p.m., with a helicopter, water cannons and a fork lift.
To get around barricades erected by the striking workers, the troops entered the factory through a side entrance that had been blocked with barbed wire, which police dismantled with help from Yoosung’s management. Within 30 minutes, police occupied the main factory building without violence.
Police arrested about 500 workers.
The strike at Yoosung has choked off key components to Korea’s five automakers and production of 30 models has been suspended because of it.
Prosecutors, the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy met Monday to discuss how to deal with the strike, which they considered illegal. Prosecutors asked local police to bust the strike.
An Asan police official said yesterday on the condition of anonymity: “It is illegal for the labor union to occupy the company’s plants after management shut down production.”
The Asan police also said yesterday that a court issued arrest warrants for two union leaders and a warrant to search the union’s office for proof that it was conducting an illegal strike.
The union is demanding a fixed monthly wage instead of hourly pay, a switch from 10-hour shifts to eight-hour shifts and an end to shifts after midnight.
Final talks began at 2 p.m. yesterday. Around 3 p.m., Yoosung President Ryu Shi-young left the Asan factory and told reporters, “Both sides didn’t accept each other’s [demands]. I don’t think I will meet the leaders of the union again.”
The union claims that management promised during 2009 negotiations that a new system for pay and shifts would be implemented. Company officials say the new system is too beneficial to workers.
“Under the new system,” one official said, “workers will get paid the same wages but work 25 percent less than before.”
On the morning of May 18, workers voted to strike and the company shut down the factory in Asan that day. Two days later, about 600 angry workers occupied the factory. On May 22, the company closed a factory in Yeongdong, North Chungcheong.
Hyundai Motor and Kia Motor, which get 70 percent of their piston rings and other engine parts from Yoosung, said if the strike goes on until the end of the month, they will lose approximately 827 billion won ($757 million) and production on 48,000 cars will be suspended. The ripple on effect will force 5,000 other component companies to shut down their production lines.
By Kim Hee-jin [firstname.lastname@example.org]