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Hyundai Heavy union continues sit-in

The ongoing sit-in strike by the union of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is raising concern with local police about it possibly turning violent ahead of the company’s shareholders meeting. The union organized the strike to protest HHI’s takeover of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME).

In March, HHI signed a 2-trillion-won ($1.68 billion) deal with the Korea Development Bank, DSME’s largest shareholder, to buy its smaller rival. Under the agreement, HHHI will be split into two ― one half will become a sub-holding company under a different name, while the other will be a reorganized entity that will carry out shipbuilding and offshore businesses.

However, the union is claiming the split will force the newly reorganized HHHI to inherit massive debt, which will lead to restructuring and job cuts. Members have been staging partial strikes since May 16 and started the ongoing full-scale strike Tuesday.

As a shareholders’ meeting to decide on the issue is to be held Friday ― with participants expected to approve the division and takeover ― police are preparing for possible violent clashes as the union could attempt to stop the meeting from taking place. Several unionized workers having already been apprehended for stockpiling paint thinner and iron pipes.

On Monday, the strikers took over Hanmaeum Community Center near the company’s headquarters in Ulsan intending to block the meeting, which is scheduled to be held there.

According to the Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency, 250 union members are inside the community center building, blocking the entrance, while another 200 are staging a rally outside, surrounding the building and supplying food for strikers inside.

To prevent any possible clashes, 2,000 police officers from 19 units have been dispatched to the site. Out of concerns over possible violence, a foreign school located in the center and nearby stores have been temporarily closed.

The Hyundai Heavy union plans to continue the occupation until Friday.

While requesting the police remove strikers from the center, the company has been calling for talks with the union, promising job security for the workers and the retaining of terms of an existing agreement between the company and the union after the company is reorganized.

An Ulsan court approved Monday an injunction filed by the company prohibiting the union from interrupting the shareholders’ meeting.

On Tuesday night, a vehicle leaving the union’s headquarters carrying a 20-liter container of paint thinner, a tank of gasoline and 39 iron pipes was stopped by a security guard who reported it to police.

The union members in the vehicle claimed the items were commonly used for “propaganda activities,” such as painting slogans on banners and supporting tents, but the police confiscated them out of concern that they would be used as weapons.

Meanwhile, the union of Hyundai Motor is providing support, sending some of its members to join the sit-in.

“In order to block the shareholders’ meeting, we have decided to show solidarity and take action,” it said Wednesday.

A thousand members of the automaker’s union participated in two afternoon rallies the same day, and also plan to do so today and Friday.

“If the company attempts to forcibly disperse the strikers using the police or other illegal means, the entire union will join the strike,” it added.
Source: Korea Times

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