Workers from South Korea’s struggling mid-sized shipbuilders have publicly called on President Park Geun-hye’s administration to do more to assist the businesses.
Representatives from labour unions of Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, ShinaSB, and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding held a press conference on 7 July, pleading with the government to arrange for more financial aid to enable their employers to recover from their woes and improve the stability of their own jobs.
All three shipbuilders have been undergoing debt restructuring and Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding appear to be recovering, having secured a string of product tanker orders.
ShinaSB has been less fortunate and is now making a second attempt to sell itself.
All three shipbuilders are either under the control of creditor banks or the South Korean courts, a situation that has resulted in significant job cuts at the shipyards.
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The union representatives accused the government of standing by and doing little, even as the 2008-09 global financial crisis saw a few mid-sized South Korean shipbuilders exit the market.
Addressing journalists in front of Central Government Complex in downtown Seoul, the union representatives said, “As protectors of the shipbuilding industry and local economy, we cannot let mid-sized shipbuilders go to ruin. If the government neglects the troubles of mid-tier shipbuilders, we will hold such large-scale rallies in Seoul to decry the incompetent regime.”
The unionists requested that the government set up insurance fund to provide refund guarantees for the shipbuilders, and that the government-linked ship financing units in Busan International Finance Center establish support teams for mid-tier shipbuilders.
The affected shipbuilders have been having difficulties in winning new orders as their creditor banks have refused to provide refund guarantees, which ensure customers get their money back should orders be cancelled.
Jung Dong-il, representing the Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering labour union, said, “It appears that the government of President Park Geun-hye has been doing nothing as shipbuilders and the shipbuilding industry go to ruin as it hasn’t come up with any countermeasures.
“If the government provided systematic support, mid-tier shipbuilders can sufficiently overcome their difficulties. This would contribute to the development of the economy and society.”
Kim Min-jae, representing the ShinaSB labour union, said, “If the creditors don’t obstruct our employers’ path to winning new orders, workers would keep their jobs. This would strengthen the shipbuilders’ operations and stabilise the provincial economies.”