HHI’s workers decide to strike

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HHI’s workers decide to strike

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI)’s union has decided to strike alongside workers from Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), protesting new restructuring plans announced by the embattled shipbuilder.

“The company brought us a list of employee benefits to be terminated from July without any prior discussion with the union,” said a spokesperson from HHI’s labor union on Friday.

In hopes of cutting labor costs, the former world’s top shipbuilder had already announced in April it would cut work hours, and also encouraged employees to use up their unpaid leave days for the year.

“Our wages are dependent mostly on variable working hours, but the company just ordered us to conform to the restructuring plans, saying this is an emergency situation,” the spokesperson said.

The company’s plan to spin off 994 facility maintenance workers into a separate company also angered workers, who consider that forcing those employees out of the company.

Earlier in the week, workers at SHI also decided to strike after the shipbuilder announced plans to accept the early retirement of 1,500 employees within the year. The move is part of a long-term self-rescue plan that aims to cut down 30 to 40 percent of its workforce by 2018.

“The company calls it voluntary resignation but it is a forceful lay-off and we cannot conform to restructuring measures proposed by the company,” a spokesman from the worker’s committee said.

The committee represents about 6,000 workers from 14,000 employees of SHI. It is different from a labor union in that it is backed financially by the company and not supported by payments from individual workers.

The company said it serves a similar role as a union and has been the main negotiator for many issues between workers and management at the company.

Last month, the committee offered to freeze wages if SHI would not cut jobs. But after the most recent restructuring plans were announced, representatives from the committee sent a letter to CEO Park Dae-young on Wednesday saying, “If the company further executes the reform plans without the consent of the laborers, the company will have to take responsibility for all subsequent collision including physical and legal confrontations.”

Meanwhile, the union at DSME has been the fastest to move against its company. Workers there finalized their support for a strike on Tuesday, with 85 percent voting in favor.

The company’s creditors were not pleased, with officials saying they “may cut support” if workers strike.

DSME’s union had agreed to freeze wages and not mount a strike with the creditors last October in exchange for 4.5 trillion won in support.

Thus far, 3.5 trillion won has been injected into the company and if the union strikes, creditors hinted they would withhold the remaining funds.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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