Hope bus ride (3)

Korea court is very strict about massive layoff. Unless the company has very pressing and urgent operational reasons, employers cannot fire their workers at will. Obviously, employers should show corresponding efforts to diffuse the risk and turn the company back on track. Also, employers should set up reasonable and fair guide lines for selecting layoff candidates and consult with their unions. Finally, they should do their best to take care of the welfare of their former employees. Too complicated? Yes it’s really complicated but please remember this. The law was not setup like that from the start. Rather, it is a result of long time struggle between workers and their employers because employers have been really abusive and aggressive, especially things got tangled up for money they would pocket-in.

All right. Then, what about in this case? Does Hanjin have pressing and urgent reasons to layoff 1/3 of its production workers? What do you think about this? OK. Let’s first see what the government body says about this case. The union workers brought the case to Busan Regional Labor Relations Committee on Feb. 16. They were convinced that it would rule in favor of them based on the “Special Collective Bargaining Agreement regarding Overseas Shipyard” that had been signed by both on Jul. 2007. In that agreement, the company promised it would not look for artificial restructuring such as reduction or closure of existing shipyard in Korea on managerial reasons such as running overseas shipyard. Furthermore, Seoul High Court ruled in favor of another labor union on strike, Jinbang Steel labor union, on Feb. 9 upholding the effect of existing employment agreement between the union and company in a case where the company had laid off 17 workers against the agreement. This case was even more promising for union’s side since two labor committees, Kyungbuk Regional Labor Relations Committee and Central Labor Relations Committee, had turned down the union’s request. Interestingly, however, after a long delay on this case, the Committee sided in favor of the employer on May 6, saying that “Layoff by Hanjin company seems reasonable since it has  pressing managerial reasons considering the fact that it did not get new ship building orders for over 2 years and so forth.” Uh?

Anyway, after this decision by regional committee, Hanjin company beefed up its effort to dismiss union workers on strike from its Youngdo shipyard. It hired security contractors under an ostensible reason of normalizing shipyard operations that had been, arguably, broken up for a while. However, people have witnessed numerous confrontations, in many cases physical ones, between union workers and security contractors and tensions between them have been escalating recently. Besides, the union workers were getting exhausted after long and extremely lonely struggle against their really “heavy” employer. With almost marginal media coverage and draining attention from Korean people, we can imagine it must have been really a lonely battle. People who had been watching things unwind at Hanjin shipyard were particularly concerned about the lady on crane #85 who had been cut off even from the rest of her colleagues for over 150 days at that time.

Ground for hope bus ride is laid in this way.


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