Corea, República de - Workers locked out of tyre plant (2012)

After a membership vote on 10 March 2011, members of the Kumho Tyre Workers’ Union affiliated to the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) staged a one-day strike on 25 March at two of three Kumho plants in Korea – Gwungju and Gokseong.

Management immediately retaliated on 26 March with a lockout. When some 3,400 workers at the two plants tried to return to their jobs, Kumho managers insisted they sign individual agreements pledging not to strike. Disputed issues include the refusal of management to negotiate paid time-off inside the factories for KMWU branch leaders to handle grievances and perform other union business.

On 1 April, management lifted its lockout of workers and rescinded its demand that workers sign individual work agreements promising not to engage in further work stoppages. In return for lifting the lockout, the Kumho Tyre Workers’ Union said it would end its industrial actions in front of the two plants. In lifting the lockout, the Kumho Tyre Workers’ Union recognised the company’s fragile financial and market situation.

Kumho, a subsidiary of the Kumho Asiana Group is Korea’s second largest tyre manufacturer and the world’s tenth biggest. It had shed many jobs over the past two years due to debts and shifting of work to start-up plants in China. A week earlier, Kumho was hit by a massive recall of tyres made in those Chinese plants because recycled content exceeded the allowable requirements. Workers at the company’s third tyre plant in Gyeonggi province, where the KMWU also represents staff, were not affected by the dispute.

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