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A six-year-long dispute over massive layoffs made by Ssangyong Motor in 2009 appears to be close to reaching a settlement after labor unions and the company temporarily agreed to a reinstatement of the dismissed workers and resolved other issues.

According to the company, Monday, Ssangyong Motor CEO Choi Johng-sik reached a tentative agreement on the major issues on Dec. 11 with Kim Deuk-joong, head of the dismissed workers under the Korean Metal Workers' Union, and Hong Bong-seok, head of the company union.

The issues include reinstatement of dismissed workers, support for the bereaved families of 26 workers who died after committing suicide or disease after their dismissal, and withdrawal of the compensation suits the company filed against ex-workers who staged a three-month strike at its Pyeongtaek plant in 2009.

Under the tentative agreement, the company said that it will "make efforts" to gradually reinstate 187 dismissed workers by 2017. Also, the company agreed to drop the lawsuit against the union, originally seeking 4.7 billion won in compensation and provisional attachment for the damage caused by the strike.

"We have tentatively agreed on major issues but we haven't decided on the details," said a Ssangyong official. "After discussing them further within the company, we will make an official announcement."

The labor unions and the company agreed to first rehire six laid-off subcontractors early next year. Also, they agreed to create a fund to finally support dismissed workers until they are rehired.

However, the three parties need to go through internal procedures to approve the agreement. The union for dismissed workers voted for the plan by a narrow margin Sunday. The company union and management will soon hold a meeting to decide on it.

The dispute dates back to 2009 when Ssangyong was placed under court receivership after its main investor, Shanghai Automotive, pulled out the year before. Two months later, the automaker launched a restructuring plan that included massive layoffs ― 2,646 or 37 percent of its 7,135 employees.

The fired employees claimed that the company exaggerated a sales slump in order to justify the job cuts. But the Supreme Court ruled in November last year that Ssangyong's decision was legitimate.

During the disputes, India's Mahindra & Mahindra bought the automaker in 2011.

Last year, the fired workers waged a "chimney protest" from atop a 70-meter chimney stack at the plant in Pyeongtaek, demanding their reinstatement. Kim Deuk-joong went on a hunger strike and laid-off workers visited India to gain international support.

Ssangyong reopened negotiations with the labor unions to find common ground in January this year. The talks had been in limbo over the last 11 months as the three parti
es had showed differences on key issues.

Tag(s) : #Asia-Pacific

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