Daewoo Motor Workers Strike Over Arrest of Union Leaders

The Korea Times, Vol.200004 no.69, 26 April 2000

Auto workers of the ailing Daewoo Motor Co. went on a general strike yesterday to protest the arrest of 20 union activists from the auto plant at dawn.

About 1,000 workers held a rally in the assembly lines in Pupyong, west of Seoul, calling for the release of their leaders.

The work stoppage forced Daewoo to shut down almost all its production lines, which has an annual capacity to make 500,000 passenger cars.

Police stormed the Pupyong factory of the financially-troubled carmaker around 3:40 Tuesday morning and arrested labor union president Chu Young-ho and 19 others. All but seven were released later in the day.

Chu and three other labor activists are still placed under detention.

The local court already issued the arrest warrant for the four union leaders, who are accused of obstructing the operations of Daewoo by orchestrating the strikes.

They are also suspected of causing over 70 billion won in damages to the automaker by staging walkouts from Feb. 15 to April 12.

The predawn raid followed more than two months of partial or full-scale strikes by the plant’s 10,000 workers who are protesting the planned sale of the money-losing firm to a foreign investor.

The government claimed that the strikes were illegal, threatening to take stern legal actions against those who masterminded the work stoppages.

No violence was reported during the 30-minute raid since it was early in the morning and the union activists were sleeping before being taken away.

The Daewoo labor union and the Korean Metal Workers’ Federation (KMWF) held an emergency meeting to decide whether workers will continue their strikes or not.

Some labor experts said that the arrest of the union leaders was aimed at getting rid of a stumbling block in the process of selling Daewoo to a foreign firm.

They also pointed out that the prolonged Daewoo strikes would have a negative effect on a planned sale of another ailing automaker Samsung Motors. Inc to French firm Renault SA.

General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler, Fiat and Hyndai Motor Co. of Korea are participating in the international bidding for Daewoo.

Creditors for Daewoo Motor said the successful bidder will be selected by September.

About 37,000 union workers at the nation’s four automakers—Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia Motors Corp. and Ssangyong Motor—held a 7-day general strike from April 6 to oppose the planned selling of Daewoo Motor.

The protesting workers demanded that the government nationalize the company by injecting public capital into it.

They are worried that the auction of Daewoo to an overseas firm and ensuing restructuring programs might lead to a large-scale job cut in the auto industry.