IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate Korean Metal Workers Union believes that POSCO workplaces will only become safer when union representatives are able to participate fully in safety systems. Instead, POSCO recently dismissed three union activists for exposing union busting, and failed to reinstate them after the National Labor Relations Commission ruled that the dismissal was unfair. The affiliate argues that large scale industrial disasters happen at POSCO due to management decisions to not upgrade aging facilities and equipment, to downsize subcontracted workers and to outsource risks instead of eliminating them. Korean Metal Workers Union alleged that “POSCO blocks the affiliate from accessing accident sites and refuses to allow union safety experts to participate in accident investigation. The company fails to disclose the true cause of an accident after an investigation is concluded, leaving workers to face the same risks that killed their colleagues.”
Korean Metal Workers Union demands labor inspections with guaranteed union participation, a joint labor management response system, fundamental safety measures that address root causes, measures to improve aging equipment, and an end to outsourcing risks. Korean Metal Workers Union’s international officer Mr Hyewon Chong said “Allowing a democratic union to function freely is a precondition for setting up a credible safety system at the steelworks. But instead of working with the union to make POSCO workplaces safer, the company dismissed three union activists for exposing their plans to bust our union.”
IndustriALL’s base metals director Mr Matthias Hartwich said “We join with the KMWU to demand accountability from POSCO for the frequent, preventable industrial disasters, and to call for those responsible to be prosecuted. We cannot stand by while our co workers die in preventable fatal accidents. This must end now!”
Accidents in November and December at POSCO’s Gwangyang steelworks in resulted in the deaths of five workers. On November 24, an explosion near a blast furnace led to the deaths of three workers. In further incidents on December 9 and 23, another two POSCO workers lost their lives. The latest is the 18th accident in the past three years at the company’s Pohang and Gwangyang plants. POSCO workers have been killed by asphyxiation, explosions, fires, physical crush injuries, fatal falls, and overwork. The accidents have continued despite the plants being subject to an inspection conducted by the labour ministry.