GEOJE, July 22 (Korea Bizwire) — Subcontract workers at the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. (DSME) shipyard on the southeastern coast agreed to end their 51-day strike Friday, after labor and management struck a last-minute agreement on almost all contentious issues.
About 120 unionized workers from DSME subcontractors had staged a sit-in at the global shipbuilder’s Okpo shipyard on Geoje Island, about 470 kilometers southeast of Seoul, since June 2, demanding a 30 percent wage hike, and improved working and employment conditions.
They had occupied an oil tanker under construction at the shipyard’s main dock since June 22.
The striking workers and their employers reached an agreement on a wage hike of 4.5 percent, payment of some special allowances and partial employment succession of workers from subcontractors that have closed their business, according to officials involved in the talks.
The agreement was approved by 96 percent of the unionized workers in a vote later in the day.
But the parties failed to produce an agreement on the withdrawal of a damages suit against strikers and the scope of criminal liability exemption for them and agreed to hold further negotiations.
The management has reportedly vowed to seek damages from striking workers, citing a heavy operating loss, but labor has denounced such a move as retaliation against workers who lack sufficient financial resources.
DSME estimates the aggregate operating loss from the prolonged strike to be more than 800 billion won (US$608 million).
The labor-management agreement came just before the shipyard begins its two-week summer holiday this weekend and the government takes steps to use police force to break up the protracted sit-in, which has dealt a heavy blow to the world’s fourth-largest shipyard.
Later Friday, the government said in a statement it will respond to illegal activities during the strike in accordance with the law and principles, hinting at the possibility of criminal action against the unionized workers.
The shipmaker has filed a complaint against union leaders on charges of obstruction of business.
The government also called on the companies’ management and labor to work together to promptly normalize operations.
Police requested arrest warrants for nine union members who participated in the strike, including those who occupied the tanker.
“We plan to summon the workers after they recover their health sufficiently,” a police official said.