Striking South Korean shipyard workers in talks to end siege, deliveries delayed


SEOUL, July 20 (Reuters) – Striking contract workers and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (042660.KS) (DSME) have made progress in their wage hike negotiations, the two sides said on Wednesday, seeking to avoid the use of force to end the siege of the shipyard.

About 100 contractors have occupied DSME’s main wharf in the south coast town of Geoje since last month, demanding a 30% pay rise, halting work on the site which the company says , have caused delivery delays. Read more

DSME and the Korea Metalworkers’ Union, which represents the strikers, said the two sides had discussed narrowing the gap on proposed wage increases, with the strikers reducing their demand to 15%.

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Union officials told Reuters on Wednesday that the company was refusing to back down on its offer of a 4.5% pay rise. A spokesperson for DSME declined to discuss details of the negotiations. A new round of talks was scheduled for Wednesday.

The new round of talks comes as the government of conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol has pressured the strikers, calling the siege illegal and unacceptable and saying it is causing “enormous damage” to an industry in a critical moment on the road to its recovery.

Contract workers launched the sit-in at the main dock of the country’s third-largest shipbuilder last month, demanding a pay rise to make up for cuts in recent years when the industry struggled to survive a global crisis. Since then, orders have gradually picked up, thanks to pent-up demand from the pandemic.

The construction of eight ships at five docks at the shipyard is being hampered, with their delivery dates pushed back two to five weeks from Wednesday, including a ship scheduled for delivery in December, the DSME spokesman said. .

DSME said it won orders for 18 liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers this year and has a full order book for the next three years, which could help the loss-making shipbuilder return to profit.

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Reporting by Byungwood Kim; Editing by Jack Kim and Lincoln Feast.

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