Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. chairman Cho Nam-ho is facing criticism from politicians for continuing to ignore calls to attend a public hearing and put an end to the labor dispute at the shipbuilder.
On Dec. 20 the company decided to let 2,500 workers go in the near future, prompting its labor union to go on strike. Only 400 people took the voluntary redundancy plan that guaranteed an additional 15 months’ salary as compensation.
Opposition party leaders led by Sohn Hak-kyu (right) of the Democratic Party on Wednesday meet with the politicians who are staging a hunger strike in front of Deoksu Palace in Seoul over the labor dispute at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. (Yonhap News)
The union’s actions were supported by a range of outside groups including the hard-line Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, members of which climbed a 35 meter-high crane to stage a sit-in strike at the company’s Yeongdo shipyard in Busan.
Although the company and the union reached an agreement in late June, after some 190 days of striking, members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions continue to occupy the crane.
In addition to the umbrella union, civic and religious groups have added to calls to have the laid off workers reinstated.
With the situation drawing attention across society, opposition parties have asked to question Cho.
Cho is the CEO of Hanjin Heavy, and the largest shareholder of Hanjin Heavy’s parent firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Holdings. Cho holds 46.5 percent of the holdings firm.
On Wednesday, leaders of the five opposition parties ― Democratic Party, Democratic Labor Party, New Progressive Party, Creative Korea Party and the People’s Participation Party ― called for the parliamentary hearing on the issue to be resumed.
“We will make every effort to resume the hearings that were stopped in June, and to have chairman Cho Nam-ho attend the hearing,” the parties said.
The parties also said that they would take “all necessary measures” if Cho refuses to attend the hearings, and would shed light on the “five main suspicions” surrounding Cho.
The five main issues include the rapid increase of Cho’s stakes in the company in 2007 when Hanjin Heavy was turned into a holdings company, suspicions about the company using its operations in the Philippines to avoid taxes and “illegal” layoffs. There are also allegations about the mistreatment of laborers and industrial accidents at the Philippines operations, and questions over whether Cho’s long business trip was designed to avoid the summons.
Cho left the country on a business trip on June 17 and has yet to return.
Despite the continued demand for Cho’s presence, the Hanjin Heavy chairman remains overseas with no set date for return.
“We do not know the chairman’s schedule and when he will be returning to the country,” an official at Hanjin Heavy’s Seoul office said.
The official declined to comment on the demands for Cho to attend a hearing saying only that the company’s official position was handled by a team based in Busan, which is currently on vacation.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org