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Mon, Aug 03, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Ssangyong Motor pulls out of negotiations with union

AFP , SEOUL

Talks aimed at ending a prolonged industrial dispute at South Korea’s troubled auto firm Ssangyong Motor collapsed yesterday, with management pulling out of negotiations.

Managers said in a statement that three days of talks had failed because of the union’s insistence on “unacceptable” demands for no layoffs and no lawsuits over their two-month occupation of the firm’s factory.

Hundreds of workers, armed with metal pipes, slingshots and inflammable paint thinner, have occupied the factory in Pyeongtaek, 70km south of Seoul, since May 21 in protest at job cuts.

The debt-stricken firm in February secured court protection from creditors after China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry gave up management control.

Court-appointed managers have since struggled to turn it around through job cuts and cost savings.

The program calls for the sacking of 2,646 workers or 36 percent of the workforce, in what would be the country’s first mass layoff since the onset of the global economic crisis in September.

Some 1,670 workers have taken voluntary retirement but hundreds are still staging a sit-in at the factory. There have been clashes between strikers and employees trying to go to work.

Ssangyong’s court-appointed manager Lee Yu-il announced that the talks had collapsed in a televised news conference yesterday.

“The union ... continues to stick to its previous position that it will not allow for any single layoff, and we inevitably decided to end all negotiations that we believe are meaningless,” Lee said.

“What we propose is to overcome this crisis by having employees rotate on work and on unpaid leave,” union leader Han Sang-kyun said in an interview with YTN cable TV news channel.

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