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Labor strife in the shipbuilding sector losing momentum

All News 10:57 July 21, 2016

SEOUL, July 21 (Yonhap) -- Labor strife in the country's shipbuilding segment seems to be fizzling out as employees' participation in the pan-industry strike, in protest against massive restructuring moves, is far lower than expected, industry sources said Thursday.

According to the sources, the coalition of unionized workers from eight shipbuilders, including Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., threatened last week to hold a joint strike on Wednesday where it said some 30,000 workers would appear.

But only about 10 percent of the estimated number actually joined the partial strike, indicating that the drive is losing momentum.

Hyundai Heavy's unionized workers launched a partial strike in Ulsan, a southeastern coastal city, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and employees from Samsung Heavy Industries also participated in the joint rally on Wednesday.

But employees from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., one of the country's big three shipyards, did not join.

Industry watchers said the sector's labor strife may further lose ground down the road as the shipyards' workers are scheduled to go on summer leave staring next week.

"Employees are scheduled to take two-week leave starting next week," said a labor union official at Daewoo Shipbuilding. "And we are planning not to join the strike."

Local shipbuilders have been struggling with severe financial strain since the 2008 global economic crisis, which sent new orders tumbling amid a glut of vessels and tougher competition from Chinese rivals.

The country's top three shipyards suffered a combined operating loss of 8.5 trillion won (US$7.45 billion) last year due largely to increased costs stemming from a delay in the construction of offshore facilities and an industry-wide slump. Daewoo Shipbuilding alone posted a 5.5 trillion won loss.

The shipbuilders have recently drawn up sweeping self-rescue programs worth 10.35 trillion won in a desperate bid to overcome the protracted slump and mounting losses.


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