Violence from striking union workers forced 4,000 Ssangyong Motor Co. Ltd. management and non-union workers to pull out of the Pyongtaek, South Korea, plant late Saturday after entering it to try to get the assembly line back into operation, a spokesman tells Ward’s.
The group of roughly 4,000, which included Ssangyong’s court-appointed receivership managers Lee Yu-il and Park Yong-tae, were forced to leave the plant under threats from more than 900 strikers.
The strikers beat some of the workers with pipes and threw firebombs in several violent clashes, the spokesman says.
“Our court-appointed managers made an announcement about 10 p.m. Saturday and all 4,000 of us began to withdraw,” says the spokesman, who was in the plant at the time. “Even as we were leaving, some of the strikers attacked us with metal pipes, and two more of our employees were severely injured.”
More than 70 workers were badly hurt, most hospitalized, he says.
“We came to the conclusion that our efforts alone can no longer protect our plant so we decided to leave, even though it breaks our hearts,” says a joint statement released by receivership managers Lee and Park. “Our employees entered the plant to protect our work place with only their bare hands against armed strikers.”
They note that even though many people were injured in bitter fights with armed strikers, the national police service withdrew their riot squad on Saturday night and left the 4,000 managers and non-striking employees unprotected.
“It has become impossible for our employees to protect the plant by themselves,” the statement says.
Adds the Ssangyong spokesman: “Even while (the police) were here, they didn’t try to protect us. They only stood and watched the violence. If we stayed longer in the plant, more and more people would get hurt.”
The huge group of 4,000 managers and non-striking employees entered the plant Friday afternoon. All were inside by 4 p.m., although there were many bitter fights.
They began leaving after having re-occupied the plant for less than 36 hours.
Earlier on Friday, Ssangyong management made a settlement offer to the strikers who have held an armed sit-in since May 21.
Of the 976 people who are losing their jobs under a court-ordered restructuring program, 400 were offered an opportunity to voluntarily retire with an improved severance package.
Nearly 400 also were offered jobs with affiliated companies or in the Ssangyong sales operations. The remainder would stay on the employee rolls without pay, but would be rehired in 2012 and recommended for employment with Ssangyong suppliers.
The union immediately rejected the offer and demanded to negotiate directly with the Korean government.
The Ssangyong spokesman says the ranks of armed strikers in the plant are growing as sympathizers join them.
As of mid Monday, only a few police remained on duty outside the plant, and the strikers once again were in control.
There is no plan for management to try to re-enter the SUV assembly plant.
Ssangyong management must submit a viable restructuring plan to shareholders and the court by July 15. The court will make a ruling by Sept. 15 whether to permit Ssangyong to keep operating or liquidate its assets.
Ssangyong wants to borrow 250 billion won ($195 million) from the Korea Development Bank, but the KDB says it cannot offer any funding until a viable restructuring plan has been approved by shareholders and the court.