Korean metalworkers send solidarity as Posco Assan fires 80 union members at its steel plant in Kocaeli, Turkey.
Posco, the world’s fifth-largest steel producer, continues to resist attempts by its Turkish workforce to unionize, firing workers joining IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Birleşik Metal-İş. A total of 80 union members have now been fired, with the latest dismissals coming after the union applied to the Minstry of Labour for a majority certificate that would give them the legal right to represent the 420 workers.
Company managers are attempting to intimidate workers by telling workers on the factory floor they will never accept or meet with the union.
The Korean-owned company has a “no union” policy.
In a solidarity letter sent to Birleşik Metal-İş, Kim, Ho-Gyu, president of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), wrote:
“In Korea, Posco is infamous for its ruthless and harsh union repression. Since the company’s establishment in 1968 - during the military dictatorship era in South Korea - numerous workers have exerted efforts to establish democratic unions, but Posco trampled labor and human rights and built a cold-hearted capitalist empire.”
He urged the workers in Turkey not to give up the fight, saying:
“The long years of workers pounding on the fortress walls of the Posco empire have finally created enough fissures and begun breaking through.”
The KMWU is fighting a long and hard battle for recognition at the company. Because of the “no union” policy, they have only been able to organize some precarious workers, and no direct employees. At Posco’s plants in Korea, precarious subcontractors form the majority of the workforce, despite a court ruling that this subcontracting is illegal, and that the workers should be regularized.
KMWU is demanding that Posco regularize the employment status of precarious workers, stop threatening employees to coerce them into leaving the union, recognize and conclude a collective agreement with the newest organized chapter of the Posco subcontracted workers local, and reinstate the workers dismissed during the unionization.
Members of the subcontracted workers’ local at the Pohang and in Gwangyang plants sent solidarity messages to the workers in Turkey, and held a demonstration outside the plant.
In Turkey, members of Birleşik demonstrated outside the factory, as well as outside Kibar Holding, a Turkish joint venture partner with Posco. The union also held a demonstration outside the Korean consulate, demanding that the company respect workers’ rights.
President Kim of the KMWU finished his solidarity letter saying:
“This is what we want to say to our comrades. Do not bow to Posco’s ruthless violent repression. Just as an individual droplet of water is weak but a flood of water drops together can break through walls, an individual worker may not be strong but acting together in unity, our force becomes insurmountable. They know this too.
“The only reason they respond with force and union repression is because they are afraid. I am convinced that the workers united together in struggle will surely see victory.”
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:
“Our affiliates in Korea and Turkey have witnessed the results of Posco’s ‘no union’ policy. They face the same struggle, and they are uniting to challenge Posco. IndustriALL will continue to support their action. Together, we can bring this company to the negotiating table.”