South Korean Hyundai Heavy workers stage full-scale strike over merger

Unionists of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) protest the troubled shipyard's planned sale to Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. in front of DSME's Seoul office. Photo by Yonhap News Agency

SEOUL, May 22 (UPI) — Unionized workers at Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. staged a full-scale strike on Wednesday to protest a plan to split up the company for a merger with a smaller local shipbuilder.

Hundreds of workers started their walkouts near Hyundai Heavy’s office building in Seoul. They were joined by members of the umbrella labor group Korean Metal Workers Union.

Remaining workers at the company’s plant in Ulsan, some 248 miles southeast of Seoul, also laid down their tools for four hours, according to the union.

The union has been launching four-hour strikes since Thursday to oppose the company’s plan to merge with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co.

In March, Hyundai Heavy Industries signed a deal, worth an estimated 2 trillion won (US$1.6 billion), with the state-run Korea Development Bank to buy Daewoo Shipbuilding. The bank is the largest shareholder of Daewoo Shipbuilding, with a controlling 55.7 percent stake in the company.

Under the deal, Hyundai Heavy plans to split into two entities, which the labor union claims will lead to massive job cuts. The management recently refuted the claim, saying it will guarantee job security for the workers.

The union has said that it will continue to strike through May 31, the scheduled date for Hyundai Heavy’s shareholder meeting on the proposed split-up.

Hyundai Heavy said it will take legal action against the union’s recent strikes and file an injunction with a local court to prevent the union from interrupting the upcoming shareholders’ meeting.

Hyundai Heavy swung to black in the first quarter of this year with a net profit of 17.3 billion won from a loss of 132 billion won a year earlier. Last year, Hyundai Heavy suffered a net loss of 633 billion won.


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