Anyone who has been following the plight of troubled South Korea manufacturer Ssangyong would have been amazed at the scenes that are currently going on at the firm’s factory in Pyeongtaek.
South Korean police commandos storming a factory in helicopters dropping tear gas, management firing screws at its employees with slingshots; this sounds like something out of Die Hard, not an industrial dispute.
Around 1000 Ssangyong workers are quite peeved at the fact they have been made redundant as the firm tries to slash its costs. But instead of all sitting around the negotiating table with some custard creams and coffee, the workers have decided to solve the dispute with Molotov cocktails and fire bombs instead.
In Britain, industrial disputes usually involve striking before a sit down with employment watchdogs ACAS. I don’t remember MG Rover workers at Longbridge pulling out the bandanas, metal pipes and war paint when the gates were finally shut for the last time.
A similar situation has been going on in France, with workers at a factory who supply parts to Renault amongst others threatening to blow it up over a redundancy dispute. So far, the workers have not carried through with their threats and let’s hope they don’t look to South Korea for tips on how to sort out employment problems.
All this, of course, remains a very serious problem for Ssangyong. A company insider told Autocar that the C200 (the model which was supposed to save the company) may not appear in production form as expected at the Frankfurt show in September.
Its on sale date of March 2010 also seems a distant possibility, especially if the factory where it will be produced is still under occupation.
Of more immediate concern to Ssangyong in the UK will be its stock levels. At present, it has enough cars to last it through to the end of September, but after that? Ssangyong isn’t producing any cars at the moment, so you’d have to say things aren’t looking particularly good for the future company at the minute.
As the insider said: “There’s strong feeling that Ssangyong can survive, but so long as the workers continue to occupy the plant, everything remains up in the air.”