Outsourced truck drivers contracted to perform work for the Australian multinational company Boral have been on an indefinite strike since June 25 in Dangjin in South Korea’s South Chungcheong province.
Boral specialises in the supply of building materials. Its headquarters are in Sydney and it employs more than 15,000 people in Australia, the United States and across Asia.
The truck drivers are members of the Korean Public Transport Workers Union (KPTU) Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division Boral Chapter. The strike started in response to plans for mass layoffs and workplace restructuring.
On July 5, two KPTU officials — Chungnam branch president Kim In-su and Boral Chapter president Jang Jae-ho — began a high altitude sit in on top of a silo at the Boral plasterboard factory in Dangjin. They have vowed not to come down until the dismissed truckers are reinstated and the workers are given job security.
The struggle of the Boral workers in South Korea is part of a global drive by the capitalist class to use outsourcing of labour to drive down wages and conditions, and smash trade unions.
This is not the first time industrial action has taken place at Boral’s overseas operations. In 2010, Boral workers in Jakarta, Indonesia took strike action for seven days after the company refused to pay the legal minimum wage and enter into a proposed agreement guaranteeing basic workplace conditions.
In Australia, Boral is a major backer of anti-union building giant Grocon. Boral was singled out by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union in a statement on the CFMEU’s dispute with Grocon for desperately working to keep Grocon’s concrete flowing.
Boral has also sought court injunctions against the CFMEU for alleged “bans” on Boral deliveries to Grocon sites.
Tensions between the CFMEU and Boral heated up in March after the CFMEU launched a campaign to check the safety of concrete trucks on Boral sites. After rigorous safety checks, the CFMEU reported findings of shocking safety defects on trucks at Boral sites.
The CFMEU’s findings are not surprising. The company has a questionable health and safety record at best. It has been fined on many occasions for breaching Australians workplace safety regulations, including a fine of $200,000 in 2004 for the death of a road worker in NSW.
We do not have to look hard to see connections in international struggles and disputes. Capitalists such as Boral are global — in response we must also organise and fight back internationally.