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Police raid strike at Kiryung Electronics

22 October, 2008Twelve arrested, one hospitalised and many more injured by Kiryung Electronics-hired thugs and police who were called in to break KMWU strike launched by workers that produced Sirius Satellite Radios in Korea.

USA/KOREA: Riot police stormed a peaceful demonstration on October 15, resulting in the arrest of twelve members of the Korean Metal Workers' Union and injuring many after attempting to remove Kiryung Electronics workers outside the company's gates who have been on strike for the past three years.

The workers, all of them women who were hired through a subcontracting labour agency, joined the KMWU in July 2005 to fight for equality on the job and basic worker protections at Kiryung. Soon after, the company began threatening them with dismissal for forming a union. The workers went on strike immediately.

Kiryung Electronics is a key producer of Sirius Satellite Radios, radio receivers installed in automobiles, boats and stereos sold in the United States. Sirius has exclusive partnerships with major automakers including BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Volkswagen, Ford, Volvo, and Toyota, among others.

Kiryung Electronics has refused to negotiate in good faith with the KMWU Kiryung branch and instead has employed tactics of abuse, harassment and intimidation with support of the government. The recent violence comes just months after the International Labour Organisation's Committee on Freedom of Association issued stern recommendations to the Korean government regarding the rights of Kiryung workers urging the government to "take all necessary measures to promote collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment of subcontracted workers in the metal sector, in particular at ... Kiryung Electronics."

The ILO called on the government to launch an independent investigation into allegations that Kiryung Electronics unjustly dismissed trade union members and hired private security guards to carry out violence against Kiryung workers on strike. "If the allegations are confirmed, [the Korean Government should] take all the necessary measures to reinstate the dismissed trade union leaders... "or "...adequate compensation should be awarded to remedy all damages suffered ..."

On October 16, a delegation of KMWU Kiryung workers travelled to New York City to request a meeting with Sirius management after attempts for resolution with Kiryung broke down. Sirius has thus far refused to meet the delegation.

The International Metalworkers' Federation is working closely with the KMWU and is pursuing auto companies with partnerships with Sirius that have signed International Framework Agreements.

More than three years after being forced to strike, 32 Kiryung workers remain on the picket line. The workers are fighting for:

  • Immediate reinstatement of the 32 strikers, as permanent full-time employees at one of Kiryung Electronics' factories in Korea (Kiryung closed production at the Seoul plant following the strike), with no wage, hour or gender discrimination.
  • Kiryung Electronics to pay all back wages, along with compensation for the physical and emotional hardship suffered by the women over the course of the last three years of struggle and compensation for legal fees from the drawn out strike.

The IMF is asking affiliates to send letters to Kiryung Electronics demanding that they cease and desist from violence against workers, respect workers' right to form a union, and negotiate in good faith with the workers and the KMWU for a just and prompt resolution. Letters can be faxed to: +82-2-864-1672, attention Kiryung CEO, Mr. Yeong Hun Bae.

To send letters of solidarity to the Kiryung workers, please email the KMWU's international department at: [email protected] or fax +82-2-714-0662.