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Post office strike is canceled after the government gives in

July 10,2019
Postal workers have canceled a planned strike, averting a mail-delivery disaster but leaving a number of nagging issues unresolved.

Late Monday, just a day before the walkout, the Korean Postal Workers’ Union decided not to go on strike. The government had agreed to improve working conditions, which had been blamed for the deaths of several postal workers.

If the strike had happened, it would have been the first in the 130-year history of the Korean post office.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon welcomed the union representative’s decision not to follow through.

“[I] thank the Korean Postal Workers’ Union’s decision in consideration of the public’s convenience,” Lee wrote on his Facebook on Monday after the news broke. “The union has kept its proud tradition of never once holding a strike.”

In late June, 93 percent of the 27,000-plus postal workers voted in favor of holding a strike in protest of the heavy workloads believed to be the cause of nine deaths this year.

The union claimed that delivery personnel work a total of 2,745 hours a year, which is more than the national average of 2,052 hours, and demanded that Korea Post hire more employees while reducing the working hours.

“Although the decision [to cancel the strike] was difficult, we decided to accept the government’s mediation proposal as it has promised to address overwork-related deaths and because the inconvenience that the public would face from the strike could be serious,” said Lee Dong-ho, head of the Korean Postal Workers’ Union. “Although we weren’t able to achieve 100 percent of our demands, we will return to our jobs.”

The Ministry of Science and ICT proposed adding 988 delivery personnel, including 750 who will be non-regular employees working Saturdays. Starting next year in farming and fishing villages short on staff and in remote areas, a five-day workweek will be implemented.

It was also proposed is that profits from postal savings deposits will be used for postal services rather than being returned to the treasury.

The government said it will station the additional workforce by August.

The newly increased headcount falls short of the 2,000 workers that the union has requested. The union also demanded that all Saturday work be abolished.

Workers belonging to the Korean Postman Workers’ Union, who are in the minority, denounced the capitulation.

The Korean Postman Workers’ Union is under the hardline Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, while the Korean Postal Workers’ Union, which is under the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and whose representatives negotiated with the government over the weekend, represents the majority of postal service employees.

Some 500 members of the Korean Postman Workers’ Union held a rally over the weekend in front of the Blue House.

They demanded working hours be reduced, including abolishing Saturday work, and the number of employees be increased.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]


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