S.Korea: Bank Employees strike in fear of losing jobs

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"About 70,000 unionized workers at the banking sector are likely to go on a support strike," said Shin Dong-min, a spokesman for the Korean Federation of Trade Unions to which the financial sector unions group belongs.

Protesters move to university

On Wednesday, riot police had clashed with about 300 unionists when they forcibly entered the main entrance of the training center.

Some protesters fought police with steel pipes as three helicopters hovered just overhead, stirring clouds of dirt and debris that blew over the retreating protesters.

Some unionists simply sat down, or lay down, heeding a call by union leaders to meet riot police with passive resistance.

At least 10 union members were arrested, witnesses said.

Minor injuries were reported in the fighting before the two sides separated and the strikers left without interference from the police.

A union leader said strikers had been told to gather at Korea University in central Seoul to resume the protest against merger plans announced last Friday.

The unions also confirmed that about 600 striking workers also staged a sit-in in another training camp in a provincial city southeast of Seoul.

Emergency meeting

Operations at Kookmin and Housing were largely paralyzed on Wednesday, with most branches not opening. Customers who could find open branches faced long queues and limited services.

With a nationwide banking sector strike looming, Finance Minister Jin Nyum called an emergency meeting with the presidents of the two banks and other officials.

A statement issued later said they decided not to punish strikers from Kookmin and Housing if they returned to work on Thursday.

Union leaders have accused the government of forcing the merger, something Seoul promised not to do under a deal reached with the unions to end a bank strike in July.

The latest strike has battered the currency market, sending the won sliding to a new 25-month low against the dollar. After falling as low as 1,275, the won closed at 1,258.5 per dollar against Tuesday's close of 1,254, on what was seen as government-directed dollar selling.

Shares of Kookmin closed up 100 won at 14,900 on Tuesday, the last day of trading for the year. Housing Bank shares closed up 400 won at 28,700. Both shares advanced after rumors of the merger talks broke two weeks ago.

The merger would create South Korea's biggest bank, with assets of 167 trillion won ($133.4 billion).

Demands not justified?

President Kim Dae-jung said on Tuesday he felt compassion for the workers but condemned their demands as unjustified.

"The (banking) workers' demands cannot be justified," Kim said at a cabinet meeting, adding the government had no choice but to take stern action.

"Whether to undertake a merger or not is a matter for the management and shareholders of the banks to decide," the president said in his first public comment on the strike.

President Kim's government has spearheaded reforms aimed at stronger banks, companies and business practices since the 1997 Asian financial crisis pushed the country close to bankruptcy.

Under terms of a three-year, $58.35 billion bail-out which the International Monetary Fund organized to rescue Korea, the government pledged to improve banking standards.

Three years and 110 trillion won into its reform drive, the government has stepped up its efforts in recent months to spur banking sector reform.

My comments:

What would happen here [in the USA] if the employees stopped taking the pink slips so gently?

Considering that the banks are raising fees and adding them on just about anything and then buying up the comepetition, I won't be surpised when when get companies called: Bank Inc, Food Inc, and Transportation Inc and then of course there will be Medical Inc and Oxygen Inc. Are you ready? Get your "Multi-pass" out for your ID.

-- fair use act quotation: for educational and reseach purposes (perry@ofuzzy1.com), December 27, 2000

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