Front page http://laborhealth.or.kr/41059
Table of Contents
1. Fall to sea! Why didn’t they call 119 ? click
2. “Wish I could remove the word of ‘suicide’ covered with my husband” click
3. 13 deaths within a year at the ‘death factory’… what happened? click
4. [Infographic] People in the ‘hell ship’, how were they killed? click
5. ‘Shipyard ghost story’, the same death in 2014 as 1994 again? click
6. Head opened, leg broken.. No Worker’s Compensation! click
7. Blowing the whistle “How did I blackmail them?” click
8. ‘Smashing’ subcontracting companies, ‘choking’ workers click
9. “Occupational injury?” You didn’t call 119, did you? click
10. “Nobody stops running on a single log bridge” click
11. “What is should be like… what it really is like” click
12. ‘Old’ blacklist, still valid? click
13. “Jeong Mong-joon is coming to HHI to collect bills” click
14. Pyramid contract ‘Mul-yang team’, causes death click
15. Norwegian Press reported ‘Hyundai Heavy Industry Worker’s fatality’…
“Shocking information” click
‘Old’ Blacklist, still valid?
‘Old’ Blacklist, still valid?
Before 1987, pub owners used to encamp in front of Hyundai Heavy Industry (refer to as HHI below) main gate on payday to collect bills left unpaid by shipyard workers. At the time there was no salary bank transaction system, workers were paid in cash in an envelope with their name. They were paid about 200,000-250,000 won after 400 hours work a month.
With a month’s salary, they spent half to live and half to payback bills at pubs. Because many failed to pay their tabs, pub owners encamped at their workplaces. They desperately searched to catch workers holding cash in their hands and going home.
On HHI’s payday, pubs were packed with drunken workers who couldn’t even walk. They used to drink to dawn and go straight to work after a few hour sleep on the street and this lasted another 2-3 days after payday. It was the life of shipyard workers who had no future and could be injured anytime. They took out the stress from hard work with alcohol.
Most workers didn’t mean to work there for long but rather find something else after the short-intensive work at shipyards. As the union at HHI, the fight for democracy in 1987 was organized, however, this phenomenon gradually disappeared.
HHI workers did a strike, sit-in and street demonstration for 56 days from 28th July to 21st September 1987 asking 17 requests including liberalization on hair style and pay increase. As a result, their meager salaries jumped every year. The insulting work atmosphere represented by hairstyle restrictions at shipyards also disappeared. Occupational injury also relatively decreased. Dangerous working environments were improved through the union. The number of dying workers on the job visually went down.
People on ‘blacklist’, dismissed by filtering
Let’s talk about 2004, 17 years later. After the labor strife in 1987, HHI worked out a strategy for double discriminative employing management. They attempted labor control and cost reduction by extending subcontractors. On the other hand, they appealed to their employees. According to Korean shipbuilding association, the number of subcontractor increased from 1,998 in 1990 to 12,276 in 2004.
As a result, subcontractors became in charge of all avoided work by HHI employees. There was also discrimination in salary and welfare. Annual bonuses were less and more subcontractors died of Occupational injury.
Subcontractors’ complaint grew. They wanted to keep their rights by organizing a union as employees. In Aug 2013, HHI subcontractor union launched.
However, even fundamental union activities were not protected. As soon as someone was revealed as a member, they were fired or they became unemployed as their subcontracting company shut down with ‘business difficulty’. As an example, HHI subcontractor union submitted an establishment registration paper at the district office and the listed union members’ working subcontracting company had to shut down.
Watching the birth of HHI union in 1987 and followed strife, HHI had to stop organizing another union for subcontractors. HHI consistently avoided and impeded unions.
In the meantime, a subcontractor Mr. Il-soo Park killed himself. His will said, ‘Subcontracting workers are also humans. We want to live like other decent humans.’
It was 14th Feb 2004. On top of this, there was an unilateral announcement of pay cut for power grinder workers. This triggered 150 subcontractors from 10 different subcontracting companies to officially join the union.
However, the consequence was miserable. The day after Mr. Park’s funeral, all union members were fired by filtering. After shutting down subcontracting companies where union members are, non-union workers were re-hired by different companies.
Workers, who haven’t stepped onto HHI ground in 11 years
Now, let’s talk about the year 2015, 11 years later since then. During the time, the number of subcontractors increased by 3 times from 12,000 to 37,040 (HHI employee 26,880). However, subcontractors’ working conditions have not been changed compared to 11 years ago. 13 subcontractors were killed at work in year 2014.
From this circumstance, there was a move to gather subcontractors again at HHI. The subcontracting union buckled down to join the union with HHI’s union but their organizational power is very weak.
Joining a union is not simple. They tried to attract people to join but they couldn’t stand forward although they would like to. They were afraid of being dismissed.
Above all, the blacklisting of 11 years ago still discourages workers to join a union.
Workers fired 11 years ago while organizing a union cannot step onto HHI ground even now. Apart from HHI’s affiliate, they cannot work for Daewoo and Samsung shipyard either. Instead, they are working around small shipyards. HHI denies there is a blacklist but evidence suggests otherwise.
This blacklist is a huge obstacle for subcontractors to join a union. From the survey of 1,400 subcontractors by HHI and subcontracting union in 2014, 36.5% answered yes for ‘are you willing to join a union?’. However, 61.7% replied the reason they can’t join is ‘due to dismissal and blacklist’.
“Workers on the site should have stop-work authority”
“People who officially joined the union in 2004 still can’t work for HHI today. They are floating around Gunsan, Tongyoung, Jinhae where small shipyards are, being apart from their families. They joined the union to live a decent human life but the result was tragic and it still continues. HHI subcontractors witnessed the circumstance and they were stigmatized that they cannot work at any major shipyards if they join the union. That’s why it is not easy to join.”
Ms. Mi-hyang Hyun, the director of Ulsan Occupational injury Free Association also added, “The reason many subcontractors cannot join the union is due to the blacklist. Their fear toward blacklist is tremendous.”
According to ‘The formation and development of subcontracting system’ published by Prof. Won-cheol Choi at the department of sociology, Busan National University, the 2 most important types of regulation in labor markets are defined as ‘Direct, legal regulation by the government’ and ‘Regulation by collective bargaining of labor union’. By binding these, discriminative and unfair practices can be stopped to repeat in the employment.
However, the ‘regulation by government’ exists but doesn’t function and the collective bargaining wouldn’t dare dream without union. The problem is the working environment becomes more devastated as this structure persists.
Mr. Hyung-kyun Kim, the policy director of HHI union said, “HHI employees have a union representative who can listen to their requests and solve problems but subcontractors don’t. As they don’t have anywhere to address, they felt upset and desperate”.
Mr. Ha claims that being injured or dying on the job cannot help but to continue in this structure. He also said, “We need union’s activities guaranteed so that we can refuse and resist hazardous works. Without this, extending safety facilities and establishing safety rules are just a stopgap measure”.
Ms. Hyun added, “It is almost impossible to change the reckless working environment of individual subcontractors alone, who are hungry to work. Subcontractors’ union should grow their power to run stop-work authority in hazardous works and improve work environment”.
To reduce occupational injury, subcontractors should be involved in the decision-making process for working condition as a group; namely, the structure which fundamental labor rights come true is critical. However, the infamous ‘blacklist’ which started in 1970’s is still impeding it forty years later.