Dismissed Ssangyong workers ordered to pay millions in damages

Posted on : 2013-12-02 16:37 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Court finds workers liable for damages related to violent clashes with police during 2009 standoff at factory
 Nov. 29. (by Park Jong-shik
Nov. 29. (by Park Jong-shik

By Kim Gi-seong, south Gyeonggi correspondent

Four billion, six hundred eighty-one million, four hundred thousand won (US$4.42 million).

This is the amount of money that Ssangyong Motor workers must pay in compensation to the company and police, a court recently ruled. When Ssangyong dismissed 2,646 workers in May 2009, the workers retaliated by occupying the factory and going on a 77-day strike. The approximately 150 Ssangyong workers who were the defendants in the suit will have to pay around 32.54 million won (US$30,750) each.

The judge who presided over the lawsuit - which was filed in 2009 by Ssangyong Motor (President Lee Yoo-il) and the police against labor union members involved in the strike - was Lee In-hyung of the first civil law division of the Pyeongtaek branch of the Suwon district court.

In his decision, the judge ruled that the defendants were liable for damages since their objectives and methods were illegal and they had used violence in the strike. The judge ordered the defendants - including leaders of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union and the union’s Ssangyong branch along with leaders of civic organizations - to pay 4.68 billion won in damages.

Ssangyong Motor had demanded that the union pay 10 billion won to compensate for the interruption of production caused by the strike, and the police had asked for 1.47 billion won for injuries to police officers and damage to equipment.

In the view of the court, 5.5 billion of the total 10 billion requested by Ssangyong Motor was appropriate, but it reduced the final damages to 3.3 billion (60% of this amount) in consideration of the causes of the strike. As for the compensation requested by the police, the court ordered the defendants to pay most of it, or 1.37 billion won.

The leaders of the labor union who organized the strike are liable to pay damages, the court said in its decision. The court also found that regular labor union members who caused injury to police officers must pay compensation. Regular union members who took part in the strike but did not cause harm to police officers will not be required to pay any damages.

The court also ruled that the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which was another defendant in the case, was not liable for damages. While the KCTU organized demonstrations and protests during the strike, it was not involved in causing any harm to police officers, the court found.

“We are extremely disappointed in the decision, as it is another major blow for workers who are already exhausted,” said Kim Deuk-jung, leader of the Ssangyong Motor chapter of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union. “The damages demanded by the government and company management would crush the souls of the workers. We will appeal immediately.”

“These workers lost their jobs and have been on the streets for nearly five years. Demanding that they pay tens of millions of won in damages would ruin their lives and give them no chance of recovery,” said Yang Hyung-geun, chief of organization for the union.

“2.89 billion won of the workers assets (wages and severance) have already been temporarily confiscated by the court. If Ssangyong Motor and the police respond to the court’s decision by taking possession of this money, the workers at Ssangyong Motor will find themselves driven to the brink of disaster once again,” said a lawyer with experiences in labor-related case on condition of anonymity. Of the Ssangyong workers who returned to work, 26 of them are already having their salaries garnished by 50% due to a settlement in another legal case.

The Ssangyong union is also being sued for 110 billion won by Meritz Fire and Marine Insurance for funds Meritz had to pay to Ssangyong for damages from the 2009 standoff. The case was filed in December 2010 but no decision has yet been made.

In a related case, the court ruled in favor of four members of the irregular worker group of the Ssangyong Motor chapter of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union who had sued Ssangyong Motor demanding that it acknowledge their status as workers of the company. Agreeing that the workers had been dispatched, the court affirmed that the plaintiffs were working for the defendant.


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