KMWU exposes Yoosung union busting strategy

28.05.2011

Over 3,000 riot police were sent to break up the sit-in protest of 500 workers at South Korean auto parts producer Yoosung Enterprise factory in Asan. According to a report received by the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) this is part of a general union busting strategy applied by the company.

KOREA:  On Tuesday, May 24 over 3,000 riot police came to scatter five hundred workers engaged in a sit-in protest at Yoosung Enterprise factory in Asan, about 90 kilometres southwest of Seoul.

Back in 2009, the company signed an agreement with the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) undertaking to eliminate night shifts, which caused a lot of injuries and sleeping disorders among the workers, and to introduce a two day shift with a monthly wage system starting in January 2011. Despite more than ten bargaining rounds with the employer on how to practically implement this agreement, no agreement was reached and on May 17 and 18, 2011 the KMWU held a vote on whether to take industrial action. The 78 per cent vote in favour legally enabled collective action and on May 18 in the afternoon the union held a two hour strike with daytime shift workers.

On the same day, late in the evening, the company reacted by announcing a lockout against the local members and some 30 thugs surrounded the factory and tried to prevent night shift workers from entering the site. With the help of their day shift colleagues the workers managed to enter the factory.

A couple of hours later, in response to the censuring rally organized by the workers, at 10 pm some of the hired thugs ran a minivan into a gathering of workers injuring some 13 workers. They drove away and ditched the van and police later confirmed the minivan had a business card in it advertising a group of thugs "specialized in industrial dispute and tenant eviction".

Also during the lockout, KMWU discovered company papers documenting its long-term union busting plan for the factory, including seeking to induce a strike, impose a lockout, and blockade the factory with thugs, thereby provoking violence and subsequent oppression by police at the factory.

From May 19 to May 24 around five hundred workers remained in the factory demanding withdrawal of the lockout and protesting against the union busting actions of the company. This action was violently broken up by riot police. The KMWU believes the same type of union busting strategy is used by other automotive components employers including Valeo Mando, KEC and Sangshin Break.

Yoosung Enterprise Co. Ltd is a key supplier of four major Korean car assembly companies, including covering up to 70 per cent of Hyundai-Kia Motors needs in piston rings for production of the company's diesel engines. Yoosung currently employs almost 750 workers of whom 570 are unionized, the company's sales amount to US$220 million with net profit of US$11 million yearly.