• Strikers to leave besieged plant voluntarily

  • Layoff plan framework agreed

Strikers have agreed to end their occupation of the Ssangyong plant in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, which has sparked violent clashes.

Workers protesting against layoffs had occupied factory buildings since late May and this week police staged airborne raids to try to evict them.

Yonhap news agency said unionists and management had agreed a broad layoff plan framework to end the 77-day occupation. Ssangyong did not immediately confirm the report.

Almost 100 people were injured this week at the plant as strikers battled riot police with giant catapults, firebombs and steel pipes while police fought back with tear gas.

Yesterday police commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the roof of a paint shop, the last building still held by the strikers. Other officers inside three containers lifted by giant cranes landed on a roof adjoining the shop. Two helicopters dropped liquid tear gas on protesters.

Ssangyong has been under court protection from bankruptcy since February in exchange for a turnaround plan which called for 36% of its workforce, or 2,646 employees, to be sacked.

Some 1,670 accepted voluntary retirement but the rest went on strike and started their occupation of the factory, eventually halting production. Ssangyong sold just 71 vehicles in July, unable to build or export any.

Yonhap quoted sources close to negotiations as saying that both sides reached a deal to save almost half the fired workers.

The union had proposed a plan to give 48% of the axed workers unpaid long-term leave of absence, according to the source. Ssangyong had previously offered a deal to 40%.

The standoff has cast doubt over Ssangyong’s survival, costing the SUV specialist nearly WON316bn (US$258.3m) in lost production.

China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp has a 51% stake in Ssangyong but lost management control when the automaker was placed in bankruptcy protection.