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  Issue No 85 Official Organ of LaborNet 23 February 2001  

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International

Diary of a Showdown


The Korean Metal Workers Federation recounts a week which culminated in violent attacks on workers outside the Daewoo factory.

 
 

Feb. 19th, 20001

At around 17:50 yesterday two choppers were hovering around the sky of the Daewoo Pupyong plants and hundreds of riot police were following right after 4 forklifts which were removing the barricades of 4 gates of the plant.

At 18:00 1000 riot police finally entered the plant and the rest of them, 3100 surrounded the plant to arrest worker. 200 workers in the plant resisted against the police with stone and firebottles but 800 workers and family with children could not resist against 4100 riot police. The sky of the plant was overspread with smoke of the burning tires and furniture. Frightened workers were running and children and wives of the workers were crying. According to one of witness, wife of a striker, a three-month pregnant woman was hit by riot police and police by force separated children from their mothers. The police treated the wives of the strikers as criminals. After mothers were taken out of the plant, children were left surrounded by riot police.

Two hours before the attack by riot police, 800 workers including their family were resisting against police trying to enter the plant. Workers organized their defensive team with 200 union members at front of the plant gate. They were fighting against riot police with iron pipes, stones and turning water hoses on the riot police trying to enter into the plant.

There were 400 workers and students protesting and denouncing riot police 200 meters away from the gate. 1000 riot police also prevented them from getting closer to Daewoo plant. The 400 workers and students were gathering in front of the plant to support workers struggle.

However, riot police with 4 forklifts came into the plant and arrested workers. Most of workers could safely run away from violence of the police but 80 workers were caught by riot police and taken to 4 separate police stations in Pupyong City.

At around 21:00 Daewoo autoworkers and metal workers from other unions gathered in Sangok cathedral to reorganize strikers to recapture the plant where riot police are occupying.

Feb. 20th, 20001

At 14:00 3000 workers and students rallied to recapture the plant. At the rally Dan Byong-ho, president of KCTU declared the all out struggle against the Kim Dae-jung government after denouncing that "The Kim Dae-jung government is implementing neo liberalism by dismissing Daewoo autoworkers by force for the interests of GM and TNCs. The government is selling workers lives to TNCs. The government uses violent measures not to criminal, formal CEO, Kim Woo-jung but to workers. Now KCTU declared the struggle for the resignation of KIM Dae-jung government."

The protesters were marching to the plant to recapture it. They occupied whole street but citizens on the street did not express their complaints against protesters. Instead they showed their supports by applauding to protesters.

The workers and students were demanding "Stop projected lay-off. No sale to overseas. Stop neo-liberalism. No TNCs" At the same time riot police provoked workers and students by beating with their clubs. However, workers and students resisted with their iron pipes and firebottles and could arrive in front of the plant. As soon as protesters arrived in front of the plant, thousands of riot police occupying the plant came out from the plant to prevent protesters to get closer to the plant. The police threw stones to workers when workers are marching to enter the plant. In the middle of the street 30 meters away from the plant gate, there were two police buses and the angry workers and student threw tens of firebottles to burn them out.

Metal workers in other region were striking to protest against the violence of the government. 1500 Daewoo autoworkers in Chang won were on 4 hour strike from one to four o'clock, 500 Daewoo autoworkers in Pusan were on strike after lunch break, and 300 Daewoo autoworkers in Kunsan were in strike for two hours.

Feb. 21st, 20001

At 14:00 3000 workers and students were gathering in Pupyong subway station but police prevented them from getting out of the station. Riot police arrested people getting out of the station.

At around 16:50 50 KMWF and Daewoo autoworkers occupied a part of Kyung-in highway demanding "Kim Daejung should resign!!"

How Many Workers Were Working At The Daewoo?

There are four Daewoo plants making cars, compact cars, trucks, and buses in four different regions in Korea. Pupyong plant located in the west of Seoul is making mid-size cars which are Lanos, Leganza, and Magnus. All of the dismissals were from Pupyong plant.

In total there were 17000 workers employed in Daewoo Motors and in Pupyong plant there were used to be 7000 workers employed.

So far 4327 workers were mandatorily retired since the early 1999 and on the 16th of Feb the company announced that it would go on dismissing another 1785 workers in addition, which caused such a big resistance of workers.

What Was The Cause Of All The Problems At Daewoo?

The Korean economy structure mainly depends on the giant conglomerates pursuing maximum profits based on long-working hours and low wage system without building competitiveness and rational management. Also, the owners of big company have close relations with politicians to have easier access to get huge loans from bankers.

Bankers lend funds to the big business without reviewing their abilities to raise profits and to pay back the loans.

The former CEO, Kim woo-jung could borrow huge amount of funds from bankers with the help of politicians.

Last Monday former 34 Daewoo executives and accountants were arrested for violation of foreign exchange laws. They had raised $20 billion officially and unofficially $38 billion by taking out illegal foreign exchange loans and pooling funds from its subsidiaries through falsified documents.

The ill management and inability of Daewoo companies resulted in bankruptcy. The run-away irresponsible previous owner, Kim Woojung is now hiding somewhere in the world. At the same time the Daewoo Motor workers gradually were laid off and it is estimated around 3,000 workers have been laid off. Those who were safe from the sack had to put up with the 30% of wage reduction for the last three years.

Regardless Of Who Is Responsible For The Situation, Do Workers Have An Alternative For The Bankrupted Company Daewoo?

Yes, Workers are demanding the public ownership of Daewoo. Union, share holders, creditors, and public bank should have the ownership of Daewoo Motors just like what the US, German and French government did for the Chrysler in 1970s, VW and Renault. The government should put public funds not for the sale but for the normalization of the company.

What Are The Demands?

Stop projected lay-off. No sale to overseas. Job security.

Daewoo autoworkers strike is politically important since their main demands are job security that is threatened by the neo-liberal policy of the Kim Dae-jung government for the interests of GM.

Last year Ford and GM were interested in Daewoo Motors but because of strong union movement in Daewoo Motors, it was for sure that it would not be easy for them to go on restructuring. Ford gave up Daewoo then GM became the most favorable buyer of the Daewoo. But GM showed lukewarm attitude of purchasing Daewoo. It consistently announced that the purchase of GM would be decided based on the process of restructuring. At the same time the Korean government want to sell the Daewoo to GM as soon as possible and announced that it will finish restructuring process by the mid February.

Can Such A Strong Resistance Bring Their Jobs Back?

The resistance and struggle led by KMWF and KCTU are aiming not only to secure jobs but also to stop neo-liberal policy of KIM Dae-jung government.

Right after the riot police used violent measures to the workers and family in the plant and arrested 80 workers on the same day, KCTU and KMWF immediately announced all out struggle against the government.

Mun Sung-hyun, KMWF president, announced that he would organize all possible forces to fight against neo-liberalism policy and call on metal workers solidarity.

Dan Byong-ho, KCTU president, declared the all out struggle against the government and will go on fighting for the resignation of Kim Dae-jung president.

How Many Workers Are Arrested So Far?

Monday 80, Tuesday more than 20 and Wednesday more than 80~85 were arrested.

The leaderships of Daewoo autoworkers union are on the wanted lists. It is reported

How Will This Struggle Go On?

The resistance and struggle led by KMWF and KCTU are aiming not only to secure jobs but also to stop neo-liberal policy of KIM Dae-jung government.

Right after the riot police used violent measures to the workers and family in the plant and arrested 80 workers on the same day, KCTU and KMWF immediately announced all out struggle against the government.

Mun Sung-hyun, KMWF president, announced that he would organize all possible forces to fight against neo-liberalism policy and call on metal workers solidarity.

Dan Byong-ho, KCTU president, declared the all out struggle against the government and will go on fighting for the resignation of Kim Dae-jung regime.

On the 22nd metal workers from nation wide will gather in Pupyong to start struggle for the resignation of Kim Dae-jung regime. On the 24th workers of KCTU will gather to struggle for the same demands.

Any Further Struggle Plans?

A team organized by Daewoo autoworkers to arrest former run away CEO, Kim Woojung will leave for Paris this week. So far Korean prosecutor is busy in arresting striking workers yet still does not issue warrant of arrest against the run away CEO, Kim Woojung. Union and KMWF earlier distributed wanted posters of former CEO of Daewoo worldwide.

URGENT APPEAL FOR ACTION

Our struggle is more than job security. It is the struggle against TNCs and neo-liberalism. GM and the Kim Dae-jung government use violent power against workers for the more flexible use of work force. The globalization of capital is threatening workers livelihoods and their families.

Please send your protest letter to KIM Dae-jung government and organize protest in front of Korean Embassy in each country.

Your solidarity actions are very valuable for us and your solidarity letter will be delivered to hiding Daewoo leaderships and fighting Daewoo workers.

Please send a copy of your protest letters to KMWF at mailto:[email protected]


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*    For all the latest international news visit Labourstart

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*   Issue 85 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Tony Abbott – Workers' Friend?
The new Workplace Relations minister relives his own union background and explains why he’s really just another worker at heart. Honestly.
*
*  Politics: The Politics of Petrol
Australia might be burning, but is it a fire that can be brought under control?
*
*  Organising: The Battle of Campsie
SDA delegate Maria Kavaratzis recounts how the Campsie Big W has been transformed into a union shop.
*
*  History: Scabbing Through the Ages
Neale Towart looks back at how popular culture has treated those workers who have not considered themselves part of the collective.
*
*  International: Diary of a Showdown
The Korean Metal Workers Federation recounts a week which culminated in violent attacks on workers outside the Daewoo factory.
*
*  Economics: Debt Dumping Campaign Enters New Phase
The millennial deadline might have passed, but Jubilee 2000 is not giving up the fight for debt cancellation for the world’s fifty-two poorest countries.
*
*  Health: The Real Drug Wars
As Africa attempts to deal with the HIV crisis, access to the medicines that can relieve victims’ suffering is emerging as a major humanitarian issue.
*
*  Satire: Liberals Claim Triumph in Queensland
John Howard has claimed the Liberal Party’s decimation in Western Australia and Queensland as a triumphant vindication of his party’s embracing of the national competition policy.
*
*  Review: Beyond a White Australia
As we ponder the One Nation renaissance, a new book challenges the current debates around xenophobia and the perceived threat of danger from Asia.
*

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»  The Canada Bay Debacle
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