[Editorial] An acceptable HHIC resolution for workers and Kim Jin-suk

Posted on : 2011-11-10 10:53 KST Modified on : 2011-11-10 10:53 KST
 the 51-year-old member of the Direction Committee of the Busan office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)
the 51-year-old member of the Direction Committee of the Busan office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)

After nearly 11 months of struggles over the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) layoff plan, a crucial turning point has arisen that may lead the way to resolution. Representatives of HHIC labor and management met yesterday to negotiate a tentative agreement in which 94 of the dismissed workers would be rehired. Should the union accept the agreement, it would open the way for Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) Busan Office Direction Committee member Kim Jin-suk to set foot on the ground for the first time since she began her protest on Crane No. 85 at Busan’s Yeongdo shipyard on Jan. 6.

A resolution of the HHIC situation would be highly significant as a compromise among labor, management, and politicians that brings a peaceful end to a layoff issue where various interests in South Korean society have come into conflict. Neither side, labor or management, is likely to be 100% satisfied with the terms of the agreement, but it is a positive step that they each took a step back and laid the groundwork for coexistence. Politicians, for their part, held a hearing on HHIC Chairman Cho Nam-ho and developed a mediated settlement, albeit under pressure from the public. By compelling Cho to accept this settlement, they provided a foundation for the labor-management agreement.

But the largest share of credit should go to Kim Jin-suk and the Hope Bus Campaign. By staying up in the 35-meter-high crane through the four seasons since Jan. 6, Kim succeeded in drawing attention to the HHIC situation not only from South Koreans but from the international community as well. Her committed struggle awakened the public to the value of human dignity and labor, something that had been forgotten about. It is fortunate that she does not have to spend another cold winter up there. She expressed her desire to warm up in a sauna and eat some ramen, and we hope she is able to rest her weary body and spirit sooner rather than later.

The five caravans of Hope Buses that have traveled to Busan since June were an expression of compassion and solidarity with Kim from citizens across the nation. At the same time, they represented a realization that layoffs and temporary employment are not simply the problems of others, but our own problems. Each time the buses departed, more than ten thousand people from all over South Korea were able to make their way to Busan. We need to build upon the spirit of solidarity and sharing for a world without discrimination and oppression that was evidenced with the bus campaign. There are all too many places looking for a helping hand of solidarity in a world where the 99% suffer because of the greed of the 1%.

It is extremely dismaying, however, that this hard-won agreement was unable to receive final approval from the union as police were dispatched to the Yeongdo shipyard. The police were mobilized to arrest Kim when she came down from the crane, and the union said it would not hold a general meeting of members out of concerns about this. There is a possibility that if police arrest Kim at the shipyard, the social consensus on the HHIC issue will dissipate and the tentative agreement will be as good as never reached. The government needs to ensure that she will not be arrested so that the HHIC union can quickly hold a general meeting and approve the agreement.


Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]



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