Labor, management clash at Yoosung

Unionized workers’ illegal occupation of a key auto parts maker, which had disrupted the production of local automakers, came to an end a month ago. But the labor-management strife continues, making it difficult for the company to normalize its operations.

About 11,000 unionized workers of Yoosung Enterprise attempted to enter its main plant in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, wielding iron pipes and other blunt objects at 18 companies of riot police guarding the factory’s main gate. The workers clashed with police but failed to make their way into the plant.

During the violent clash, 108 riot police and about 10 unionists sustained injuries and were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.

A union official argued that riot police exerted excessive force against the workers, saying several workers sustained serious injuries and many others suffered cuts and bruises.

But a police officer refuted the union’s claim, saying that riot police had to fight back as the unionized workers used force against them.

He said a dozen riot police members sustained various injuries.

Kim Ki-yong, head of Chungnam Provincial Police Agency, said police will set up a special investigation unit to track down those responsible for using violence against police. Kim also said police will not allow unionized Yoosung workers to hold a rally near the Asan plant.

Earlier, unionists also clashed with employees friendly toward management at the factory’s main gate, with 24 individuals from both sides taken to hospitals.

The unionized employees have been trying to enter the plant en masse since June 15, insisting that all of them should be given their jobs back.

However, Yoosung management has been preventing them from doing so, demanding unionists return to work on an individual basis in order to screen out union leaders and other hardliners.

The plant has been operated by non-unionized workers since May 24 when thousands of riot police raided the plant, where hundreds of unionized workers were holed up, to put an end to a week-long strike.

At the time, police met little resistance from the workers while dispersing them. About 500 unionists were apprehended.

The unionized workers began occupying the factory on May 18 after they failed to reach a compromise with their management on working conditions and salaries.

Following the walkout, the management of Yoosung, which specializes in piston rings, cylinder liners and other key components of car engines, imposed a lockout at the plant. The strike disrupted production of all five automakers operating here as the company supplies key engine components.

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