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Rail workers call off strike, plan to man jobs at 9 a.m.

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Dec 04,2009
The Korean Railway Workers’ Union yesterday called off their strike, halting the paralyzing work stoppage after eight days. The workers were scheduled to return to their posts by 9 a.m. today.

Calling its strike “a half victory,” the union said it would resume negotiations with the management but warned it would go on a strike again if the talks don’t go well. A Korail official said, “The union appears to have surrendered.”

The union noted that it failed to win some of its demands, including reversing the decision to scrap a collective bargaining agreement.

About 16,000 of 25,000 unionized workers began their strike on Nov. 26, after Korail said it was terminating the agreement.

The strike disrupted operations of passenger and cargo trains.

Korail scrambled to replace workers on strike with retired employees or Korea National Railroad College students.

President Lee Myung-bak and other government officials urged the union members to return to work.

Four cabinet ministers issued a joint statement accusing the union of staging an “illegal” strike. Seoul police and prosecutors even sought to arrest 15 union leaders on charges of heading the strike that disrupted train operations. The union said such responses to its strike were in themselves illegal.

Local business leaders also called for a prompt end to the strike, which they said could dampen the nation’s economic recovery.

The union said its members were too fatigued and needed time to regroup. Its statement also said the union was concerned about potential accidents caused by replacement workers. Seoul Station received a series of bomb threats yesterday.

As the strike progressed, passengers and freight owners grew increasingly frustrated with the disrupted services.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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