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Reinstated Hanjin Heavy Industries Workers, "The Company is Leaving Us Out"
By Kwon Gi-jeong
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On November 9, 92 workers returned to their company, Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Ltd, after a year and nine months since they received notice of their layoffs. But it was not the company they had dreamed of.

Members of the newly established labor union did not seem to welcome them. Park Sung-ho (50, photo), representative of the laid-off workers, said, "On November 8, the day before we returned, the company promised that they would send us notice of our position assignments even if they had to send them late at night, but we didn't hear anything from management until the day we returned to work."

The workers ceased their reinstatement procedures and gathered in the lobby of the new building and demanded immediate personnel appointments.

Park Sung-ho (50), representative of the laid-off workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries, is receiving training at the company on November 12 after being reinstated on November 9. However, Park soon received a notice of indefinite leave this day.

Before they were reinstated, the workers had refused to sign a contract and pledge presented by management because they included poisonous clauses. The clauses, which the workers raised an issue on, stated that the workers agreed to changes in one's workplace and that they would follow company procedures when they were judged unfit after probation.

The reinstatement process was able to proceed only after they added in writing a provisory clause stating that the workers did not agree to these poisonous clauses.

However, the company assigned 5 workers including Park to a support division instead of the special ship division where they had previously worked. According to the company, there would be a problem in reinstating them at a defense industry site, since these five had a prison record.

The five workers had received legal punishment for their participation in labor movements. The workers awaiting reinstatement and the Hanjin Heavy Industries chapter of the Metal Workers' Union immediately began protests at the lobby of the main building.

"After about an hour into the demonstration, the head of personnel came and handed us personnel appointments stating that they would transfer us from the support division to on-site positions. It looked like they were saying, ‘We're reinstating you because we have to, but we're not going to make it easy for you'," said Park.

On November 12, the workers attended a scheduled in-house training session, where they listened to a briefing on the company's situation and filled out some personnel-related documents. That evening at 5 p.m., the company sent out a notice of indefinite leave for the 92 reinstated workers. The workers had to return home only after two days at work.

Although it was expected, the workers still could not hide the disappointment at the company's attitude.

Park said, "Without a word of apology or consolation for what we went through the last two years, the company kept repeating that the company was in a difficult situation, that it would be hard if we didn't change. I couldn't shake the impression that they did not want us reinstated."

Another reinstated worker said, "After Hanjin constructed a shipyard in Subic Bay, Philippines in 2006, they have hardly obtained any orders for their Yeongdo shipyard even though the shipbuilding industry was prosperous. In 2010, they separated the design unit of the shipyard, which is its core unit.

All the reinstated workers feel that the company has no intention to operate the Yeongdo shipyard." He continued, "The company has not acknowledged the apparent failures of management, and instead have blamed the workers claiming that the labor disputes have made it difficult to win orders. We expected for a better relationship with management when we were reinstated, but they're neglecting the basics such as issuing ID cards and leaving us out in the cold."

The Hanjin Heavy Industries situation is not over yet. Among the 800 field staff (including those reinstated), only 200 are working and the rest are currently on paid leave. Although the company withdrew the lawsuits for damages which they filed against individuals, they have yet to withdraw the suit against the Metal Workers' Union, the party which made the agreement. Thus remnants of labor-management disputes remain.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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