Sternly respond to the sit-down strike

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Sternly respond to the sit-down strike

Unionized subcontractors of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) aligned to the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) have been on strike since June 2. They have been disrupting production and invading the world-largest dockyard. As a result, shipbuilding has become suspended at the dockyard 1 and banners demanding a wage increase have covered large structures. They are calling for a 30 percent hike in base salary and payment of wages to union representatives who do not work.

Their sit-down strike has gone beyond the legal limit. Their demand for a 30 percent hike in wages also cannot be realistic. The court has warned that the protesters would have to pay 3 million won ($2,282) a day if they do not end the strike. But the warning has fallen on deaf ears.

DSME estimates more than 500 billion won ($381.4 million) in losses due to its suspended shipbuilding. A disruption for more than a month from a strike is the first in DSME’s history of 50 years. In his weekly meeting with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, President Yoon Suk-yeol emphasized on law abidance in labor relationship and an end to illegality prevailing industrial sites. He demanded cabinet members act more proactively on the matter.

The suspension of shipbuilding also deepens troubles for suppliers. Of 113 partner companies, three have already closed business and four more are to follow suit later this month. Suppliers who had endured a lengthy slump can withhold no longer. They protest in front of the dockyard demanding a resumption of shipbuilding to save their companies.

The strike has hit DSME when orders finally have increased after a long slump. The company had come under restructuring for the last seven years. Management worsened amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Cumulative deficit has reached 2 trillion won as of the first quarter. The shipbuilder won orders for 26 vessels to carry LNG and containers in the first half. But their hopes for revival are being dashed from the strike.

There are no jobs if the company goes under. The protracted strike could snap the hard-won chance for revival for the shipbuilder. The subcontractors are certainly aware of the tragic lessons from a persistent strike by Ssanyong Motor workers. Hard-line members of the union must first end their occupation of the worksite to enable the dockyard to resume activity. The sit-down strike is illegal. Choo Kyung-ho, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, has warned that unions could face criminal and damage liabilities. The government must respond sternly to the strike according to law and order.
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