Daewoo workers need solidarity

An appeal by the Daewoo Motors Labour Union

Since the mass sacking of 1750 workers at Daewoo Motors’ Bupyoung plant on February 16, there has been a protracted and bitter fight for their reinstatement.

On February 19, police attacked the workers and their families who were occupying the plant in a desperate bid to hold onto their jobs. The government deemed the workers’ actions illegal and put out arrest warrants for 9 union leaders, offering rewards equivalent to thousands of US dollars.

After the crackdown, many workers and the union leaders took refuge in a nearby Catholic church. The leadership is forced to remain there and have long set up a base from which they have continued to organise the struggle.

While the police are unable to risk a fight with the Catholic hierarchy by entering the church premises, they have organised gangs of thugs to harass workers going in and out of the grounds. In response, the workers have been forced to organise teams of round-the-clock defence guards.

The government has frozen the assets of 45 workers, demanding that they pay compensation for supposed damages to company property during the strike. One of these workers is being asked to pay the equivalent of about US$3,300,000!! Yes, you read right, it’s not a misprint. This is evidence of how high the cards are stacked up against the workers.

The company also prevented the workers from accessing their union office, located inside the factory grounds. When the union took it to the district court, it found in the union’s favour on April 6. Despite this, when 400 workers and a union lawyer tried to enter the union office on April 10, they were set upon by hundreds of riot cops in what has been the most vicious attack to date. Several suffered broken ribs, including one whose lung was punctured. One worker had his sight impaired, another his speech. Noses and limbs were smashed, backs and heads badly injured. Thirty workers are still in hospital, many of them not due out for another month.

In the ensuing uproar, nearly 10,000 mobilised for a rally and march on April 14 at only a couple of days’ notice. Lawyers’ associations and the heads of all the union federations have sent protest delegations. Even the normally submissive media has given more than their usual coverage to this incident. In an attempt to control the damage, the police sacked the head of the Bupyoung precinct, transferred the Inchon city police chief, promised to pay the hospital costs and guarantee free access to the union office.

However, this has not satisfied the workers. The momentum now continues to build towards increasingly louder calls for the resignation of President Kim Dae-jung. Last month, the Daewoo struggle was the impetus for first raising this demand. Now, the vicious April 10 attack will drive this campaign even further in the lead up to May Day and the fights surrounding the annual Spring bargaining period.

In this context, the Daewoo workers appeal for international solidarity to help strengthen their struggle for reinstatement, against the sell-off of Daewoo Motors to General Motors, for the release of their jailed comrades, for the lifting of the arrest warrants on the union leadership, and for the lifting of the freeze on the 45 workers’ assets.

Most immediately, we need financial help to continue organising the struggle. We are currently overstretched despite the contributions of many workers and other unions. We would be very grateful if you could please deposit any amount of assistance into the following account: Bank : Chohung Bank, Account : 938-04-179123, Name : An Mi-jeong, BIC-Code : chohkrse

Yours in solidarity,

Kim Il-sup, Secretary of the Daewoo Motors Labour Union

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