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South Korea Cargo Drivers on Strike


Cargo drivers to go on strike Monday

By Yi Whan-woo

Truck drivers will go on a nationwide strike at 7 a.m. Monday in protest of the government’s lack of efforts to improve their working conditions.

The Korean Cargo Transport Workers’ Union said it has “waited long enough” after 80.6 percent of its 6,012 voters approved of the walkout in the February vote.

“We sought to settle the matter through talks although we have been ready to strike since February with overwhelming support from the members,” the union said in a statement at the press conference on Friday. “The government, however, has continued to ignore us and now it’s time for us to make all-out efforts and draw out victory.”

The union has called for improvements on the complicated subcontract system, which the workers claim benefits only the large logistics companies.

Each driver, a self-employed sub-contractor, has to pay commission to logistics firms and middlemen every time one signs a deal to carry cargo on one’s own truck. And the drivers end up receiving only 40 percent of the whole fare as their share for each delivery, according to the union.

“The sub-contract system of the logistics market is the worst of among all Korean industries, and it threatens our lives,” the union said in its statement.

The call for improvement has begun since President Lee Myung-bak took the post in 2008, and the drivers say the system has remained “unchanged.”

“We waged our first strike under this government in 2008 to let our voice be heard on this matter, and the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs promised to adopt a better system to guarantee a better payment back then,” said Yoon Choon-ho, secretary of publicity at the union. “The ministry, however, has not made much progress. It instead keeps saying that it needs more time for review, and we hope they come up with significant changes this time.”

The union also demands to raise their fares by 30 percent in average, and to cut down tax on their gas purchase.

This is the third time that the union will launch a strike under the Lee Myung-bak administration including the one in 2009. And the drivers say the walkout will be ceaseless until the government accepts every condition.

The transport ministry responded it will take a firm measure on any illegal action by the union. The ministry asked the police to closely monitor the terminals at main port cities such as Busan and Incheon.

By Yi Whan-woo




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