Law and order is collapsingThe union of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), which is affiliated with the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), went on a general strike on Monday after skipping the routine and statutory procedures on collective action.
The members clashed with employees at the headquarters of the company, and one employee could lose his eyesight due to a severe injury. The union has been illegally occupying a community center in Ulsan to prevent a shareholder’s meeting on Friday on HHI’s plan to merge with its biggest shipbuilding rival, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME).
They outright ignored a court injunction ordering the union to not interfere in the shareholder’s meeting. The law is being violated, but police are staying on the sidelines. The raid also interrupted the classes of a foreign school located in the community building.
The HHI union used force against the police last week. They clashed with police guarding the Seoul headquarters and over 30 officers were hurt. Two of them had their teeth broken. The police arrested 12 union members, but released 10. A court turned down detention warrants for the other two. Police officers were assaulted in broad daylight, but so far no one has been punished.
The union has resorted to violent collective action to protest the management’s plan to take over DSME. It argues the move darkens the company’s future and will cause job insecurity. Employees have the right to protest management decisions. But the way they protest must not go beyond legal bounds. The management says that no one from the two companies will lose their jobs after the merger. Yet the union refuses to believe management.
Illegal union activities have increased significantly under the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. Unions assaulted executives and repeatedly raided worksites. They even broke the walls of the National Assembly and pushed themselves into the Supreme Court courtroom. Police responded passively for fear of being punished. Unions have become fearless, but the government and ruling party are nowhere in sight.