Shown above is the shipyard of the DSME in southern Korea. Its subcontractor unionists agreed to finish a strike in 51 days. Photo courtesy of DSME

Unionists finish occupation of large-sized oil carrier

Contractor unionists of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), one of the world’s largest shipbuilders, agreed on July 22 to finish their strike in 51 days (See the Korea News Plus article on July 22).

The workers and the management held a press conference to announce the conclusion of the prolonged strike.

They will also wrap up the occupation of a big-sized petroleum tank, which’s being built at a DSME shipyard.

“We report to the people that the two sides reached a tentative settlement, although it’s somewhat late,” said Hong Ji-wook, who represents the unionists.

Subcontractors have been on strike at the DSME shipyard since June 2, causing financial losses amounting to 700 million won ($530 million) to the embattled South Korean shipbuilder.

Against this backdrop, Korea Development Bank Chairman Kang Seog-hoon threatened to stop the financial support of DSME this week. The lender holds 55.7 percent of the languishing company.

“In case this situation continues, I am concerned that DSME will not be able to pay its debts and interests,” Kang told local newspapers. “In this climate, we will not spend even a cent to underpin DSME.”

Kang also said that KDB would work on special measures like considering the possibility of the shipyard’s bankruptcy.

Since 2000, the government has channeled 11.8 trillion won ($9 billion) into DSME to make the sinking shipbuilder stay afloat.

Still, the firm continued to struggle as its accumulated loss amounted to 7.7 trillion won ($5.9 billion) during the past 10 years.

Hence, there lingered suspicions about whether the country has to funnel more taxpayers’ money into DSME, of which debt ratio is higher than 500 percent.

And things deteriorated after the strike of DSME subcontractors started on June 2, asking for up to a 30 percent increase in salary and a substantial rise in annual bonus.

Three weeks later, they occupied the biggest DSME shipyard.

“I am glad that the strike comes to an end in a peaceful way,” Prof. Lee Phil-sang at Seoul National University said.

“I don’t think that the KDB really watch the DSME go under, and tens of thousands of workers lose their jobs. KDB Chairman Kang appears to urge to immediately stop the strike.”