Time for politicians to butt outTrouble-stricken Ssangyong Motor and Hanjin Heavy Industries (HHI) have been urging the main opposition party and outside activist groups to avoid meddling in their labor disputes, arguing that such interference and political attention only makes matters worse. Members of HHI’s labor union even visited the Busan branch of the Democratic United Party on Wednesday asking them to cancel their plan to visit the union’s protest camp at the shipyard. The union warned them that such political interference can deter foreign companies from placing shipbuilding orders, which means less work and less pay. However, the DUP ignored their entreaty and still sent its delegation, which included a group of executives led by Moon Hee-sang, chairman of its emergency committee.
Ssangyong Motor’s union also issued a statement opposing a legislative investigation that could jeopardize its corporate image and operations. The union said in the statement that “Ssangyong’s revival depends on new investment and improved sales, but if politicians beat and shake the company, we can all die.” Ssangyong is reportedly waiting on a board decision from its new Indian majority shareholder Mahindra & Mahindra to invest $900 million. This would increase the automaker’s output capacity and help it develop new cars.
Ssangyong Motor recently announced that it will reinstate 455 workers who have been on unpaid leave as part of efforts to end labor strife and normalize production lines. The union on Thursday joined with the management, local government officials, councilmen and civilian activists at its Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, factory to launch a committee to normalize Ssangyong Motor. Arguing that “we will no longer tolerate politicians using Ssangyong Motor for political leverage,” the union sent a petition to the Saenuri Party and DUP demanding the cancellation of a planned legislative probe.
Unionists find themselves pitted against politicians because the latter’s interference in the past has delayed companies’ normalization process. Even after HHI’s workers were reinstated following last year’s parliamentary hearing, most still have no work or income due to the paucity of new orders. Ssangyong Motor also fears that intervention on the part of politicians will worsen its recovery prospects amid sluggish sales and the delayed introduction of new models.
What the two companies, workers and unionists desperately need now are higher workloads and more jobs. Politicians should leave them alone and listen to the desperate pleas of the workers to let them work instead of fight.