Posco’s new union is in hot water from the start

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Posco’s new union is in hot water from the start

Posco and its new labor union are already at each other’s throats.

The union, which was formed earlier this month, claims the company has tried to incapacitate it from the start and it was forced to take drastic action.

Posco Chairman Choi Jeong-woo told reporters Thursday that he will get to the bottom of the case and emphasized that all actions by either management or labor should be legal.

“I don’t think Posco employees have done anything illegal,” Choi said. “I promised to communicate with the union once it was created, but I will have to look into why [the union] had done something so reckless.”

Posco has been operating without a union for the past five decades. But early this month, a Posco unit of the hardline umbrella union Korean Metal Workers’ Union was started.

Posco’s management held a meeting on Sunday in its Pohang headquarters to discuss ways to communicate with its new union. Five members of the union allegedly got into the headquarters later that day and purloined internal reports and a private notebook that had records of the meeting. Physical force was involved and an employee who was trying to protect the reports was injured, according to the company.

Two union members were arrested on site and the remaining three were later summoned by local police.

Lawmaker Choo Hye-sun from the opposition Justice Party issued a statement Tuesday saying that the stolen documents proved that the company was trying to hobble the union.

According to Choo, the documents included a negative description of the union which seems to be intended to create anti-union sentiment within the company.

The report disclosed by Choo said that union was involved in activities that were “not related to employee’s rights” and that such actions went “against the times.”

It also cited labor problems at Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Steel, which it said harmed the images of the companies.

Another document disclosed was a letter written by an anonymous Posco employee claiming the union is “only causing conflict among the employees” and mentioned SsangYong Motor and GM Korea, where fierce conflicts between labor and management had lead to “devastating results.”

Lawmaker Choo said that the letter was intentionally written by the company for propaganda purposes. The communication team at Posco said it was a letter submitted anonymously by an actual employee.

Posco said in an official statement Tuesday that it will take “strict measures” against the members who stole the documents aside from the ongoing police investigation.

“Posco guarantees the union the right to any type of actions and doesn’t have any stereotype against a specific union,” the company said in a written statement.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]
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