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IndustriALL and UAW demand justice for Ssangyong workers

10.10.2012

Three years since the shocking violence at Ssangyong Motor in Korea, with more than 100 subsequent imprisonments and 23 deaths, workers and their families are demanding justice.

On 10 October a delegation of the United Auto Workers (UAW) joined Korean Metal Workers’  Union (both affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) to deliver a strong demand of justice for workers who suffered during and after the Ssangyong violence.

In 2009 the South Korean government shocked the international community by its use of lethal force against the Ssangyong Motor workers. At the time, the workers were in a 77-day sit-down strike calling for negotiations on work-sharing measures to avoid mass dismissals.

Water, electricity and access to food and medicine were cut off as riot police and private security forces surrounded the plant. Riot police forces attacked the striking workers with electroshock weapons and police helicopters dropped corrosive chemical agents on the striking workers, while blocking access to water to clean chemical burns and to drink.

It appears now that the mass dismissals may have been illegal in the first place.

In a joint press release Korean trade unions, UAW and IndustriALL Global Union said, “Ssangyong Motor appears to have doctored its accounts to inflate its debt ratio of 187 percent into 561 percent. The company’s claims of urgent business exigencies to justify the mass dismissal of 2,646 workers were apparently based on dishonest claims, if not business fraud. Suspect grounds for the restructuring have been found to be true in the recent parliamentary hearing of the Korean government.”

Delivering a speech at a press conference in Seoul today, Bob King, UAW president and chairman of IndustriALL's Auto Department paid his respects to Mr. Han Gil-seok, former Ssangyong Motor Company worker who died two days before the international delegation arrived, the 23rd death victim of Ssangyong Motors.

King said, “The time is now for the South Korean government to act and take a critical step forward in showing the world that this country defends and upholds the most fundamental principles of human rights and human dignity.”

As an expression of solidarity with Ssangyong workers and their families the delegation brought postcards and petitions written by global union leaders from 81 countries and more than 2,000 UAW members in the United States and called for a parliamentary investigation to expose and correct the massive injustices carried out against Ssangyong workers and their families.

Today the delegation is meeting the National Assembly Environment and Labour Committee which is responsible for holding hearings on the Ssangyong Motor case. Postcards and petitions will be delivered by the delegation to the Committee.