The labor union of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) signed an agreement with management to end a six-month-long strike, Monday.
However, about 60 unionized workers, who oppose the agreement, refused and tied themselves to a 50-meter crane in a confrontation with hundreds of private security officers dispatched by the court to disperse the protesting union members.
Leaders of the union said they decided to stop the strike as the company’s operations have been crippled for too long.
“We’ve decided to return to work as most unionists suffered severe economic hardship due to the prolonged dispute. We do not want our shipyard to remain a dead factory anymore,” a union official said at a press briefing.
Under the terms of the agreement, management agreed to provide the fired workers with the same benefits given to those who quit under early retirement programs. The company and union also agreed to drop all lawsuits filed against each other.
However, the agreement is expected to remain a bone of contention as it was led by union leaders and not endorsed by its members, officials said.
Some members prevented the leaders from leaving the shipyard, arguing the abolition of the layoff plan was excluded in the labor-management agreement.
The Busan District Court ordered riot police to go to the factory in case the situation required them to forcibly disperse the unionized workers.
The officers dispatched by the court began dispersing 60 workers opposing the accord with management at 2 p.m.
They forcibly drove some of the workers occupying various facilities out of the factory; and also expelled some of the protestors who had tied themselves to the crane. However, they failed to remove about 30 workers on top of the crane.
The 190-day-long strike began on Dec. 20 when the company announced a massive layoff plan involving hundreds of employees.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), to which the union of HHIC belongs, strongly condemned the possible use of police to deal with the protesting union members.
Kim Jin-suk, a member of the direction committee for the Busan office of the KCTU, has staged a protest from the 50-meter high driver’s seat of a crane at the company’s Yeongdo shipyard since Jan. 6.
The company expressed contentment at the union’s decision and promised to review all requests. “We welcomed the decision putting an end to the prolonged dispute,” an official from the company said. “Now, we will make every effort to normalize operations as soon as possible.”
Following the union’s decision to end the protest, unionists illegally occupying the Yeongdo shipyard are expected to leave, a union official said.
The conflict between labor and management deepened as the company imposed a lockout at the Yeongdo shipyard, Dadaepo factory in Busan and its Ulsan factory as a move to protect them from the union’s strike and protests on Feb. 14. On the same day, two more union members also joined the female protestor on the 50-meter-high crane.