Monday, April 18, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Death toll mounts after defeat of 2009 Ssangyong strike Apr 15 2011

Riot police arrest a doctor during the strike

Two years after the brutal crushing of the Ssangyong Motors strike and
occupation in South Korea, an increasing number of sacked workers have
died prematurely.

It has been two years since the management of Ssangyong Motor Company in
Pyongtaek, South Korea, announced the layoffs of 1000 workers. Shortly
thereafter, those workers occupied their plant and held it for 77 days,
from May to August 2009, when they finally succumbed to a massive police
and army assault.

In the immediate aftermath, many militants were arrested and some were
sentenced to years in prison. Most, however, were laid off, on different
terms (some with the hope of a recall after one year which to date has
never materialized).

Two years after the announcement, fourteen people, both strikers and
immediate family, are dead. (This is in turn part of a larger pattern in
South Korea, including a spate of deaths from cancer by workers for
Samsung and four recent suicides of students at KAIST, Korea's "MIT",
resulting from grade pressures. Korea has the highest suicide rate of any
advanced industrial country, and rivals the U.S. for deaths and injuries
on the job per capita.)

Five Ssangyong workers have committed suicide and five have died from
cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or brain hemorrhage.

Doctors believe these were caused by severe stress in the aftermath of the
strike and layoffs. Some of the suicides resulted from economic problems
following the lay-offs.

In Feb 2011, one worker on unpaid time-off died of a heart attack. Under
the pressure of the layoffs, his wife had killed herself in April 2010.
They had two children. The worker's bank balance was close to zero.

The following is gleaned from an article in the South Korean daily
newspaper Hangyereh:

A Korean hospital also found that more than half the Ssangyong strikers it
has seen are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and 80% are
suffering from severe depression. Almost all the workers involved have
reported a deterioration in their marriages. Their average
post-restructuring monthly income, of 822,800 Won ($757), represented a 74
percent reduction from their previous salary.

After the defeat of the strike, 462 workers were put on unpaid leave. The
promised one-year period has elapsed, yet the company maintains it is
unable to begin reinstatement. Workers who retired or were fired are
having difficulty finding new employment because of the Ssangyong "scarlet
letter," and have been making do with temporary jobs and day-to-day work.
Also absent has been any social safety network to address their
deteriorating health and financial anxieties.

Hangyereh calls the 14 deaths "social homicides".

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