Political parties seek compromise over Ssangyong layoff dispute
Officials in talks to resume parliament session in February
Published : 2013-01-28 19:50
Updated : 2013-01-28 20:06
Rival parties began talks Monday to resolve the ongoing labor dispute at Ssangyong Motor Co. after the main opposition party backed away from its demand for a parliamentary investigation.
The issue is a key stumbling block to the resumption of the parliamentary session in February that would deal with President-elect Park Geun-hye’s government restructuring plans, Cabinet appointments and pending political and welfare bills.
The deputy floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition Democratic United Party discussed the compromise proposal offered Sunday by the DUP, which calls for a “two plus three negotiation framework” where the opposition and ruling parties would sit down with government officials, the labor union and management of the automaker.
In 2009, the automaker laid off thousands of workers after sales dwindled following the 2008 global financial crisis. Some 1,900 employees chose to retire while 159 were fired and 455 were forced to take unpaid leave.
Some of the workers have since staged sit-in protests and more than 20 workers and relatives have committed suicide or died from illness over the past three years. The DUP has since demanded the launch of a parliamentary investigation into the mass layoffs.
But the conservative-leaning Saenuri Party has opposed such measures on the grounds that political parties should not intervene in ongoing disputes between the management of a private business and its labor union.
“Our position is that we can’t just sit and watch the Ssangyong motor problem,” DUP floor leader Park Ki-choon told reporters. “The point is that we should put everything on the table here and come up with substantial solutions.”
Park added that what was of utmost importance was resuming parliament, and to that end, “what should be yielded will be yielded, and what must be countered will be countered.” But if the end results of the negotiation framework prove to be “insufficient,” warned Park, then the party will once again press for a parliamentary investigation.
Despite the multilateral approach, the Saenuri Party has yet to wholeheartedly embrace the DUP’s proposal.
“If representatives of the labor union in the proposed framework are the fired workers from the Ssangyong branch of the union of metal workers, which is an unlawful labor union, then the (DUP’s) proposal will be difficult to accept,” said Kim Ki-hyun, the Saenuri Party’s deputy floor leader.
“However, if the representatives are members of the lawful labor union within the (Ssangyong) company, then the proposal can be considered in a positive light.”
Other minor progressive parties have criticized DUP’s proposal. Rep. Shim Sang-jeong of the Progressive Justice Party described the proposal as giving in to the steadfast refusal of the Saenuri Party against parliamentary investigation.
“Considering the desperate nature of the Ssangyong Motor problem, (the DUP’s proposal) is a nave proposal and is unrealistic,” Shim told reporters.