[EDITORIALS]Strikes cannot be tolerated

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[EDITORIALS]Strikes cannot be tolerated

With labor unions of three public utilities -- railroad, power generation and gas -- going out on strike Monday morning, citizens in the Seoul metropolitan area suffered greatly during their commute to and from work. Railway transportation, the main artery of our industry, was clogged.

In particular, the strike by the railroad union, which hinders the transportation of people and industrial goods, should be stopped immediately, no matter what the union's demands are. This strike is unlawful because the unions failed to meet the required legal proceeding, and unionists are fighting for demands that cannot be compromised with management.

The unions of the public utilities went out on strike to protest planned privatization and to improve working condition. However, the government had already declared that privatization of public enterprises is not on the table. The National Labor Relations Commission made the same decision at the end of last year. Furthermore, the labor union of the Korea Power Plant Industry was ordered to accede to arbitration on Monday, and the union has been prohibited from striking for the next 15 days.

Privatization of the railroad, which is strongly protested by the union, is planned because of the necessity to cover snowballing losses, which total 1.5 trillion won ($1.15 billion). Privatization of the railroad is meant to enhance competitiveness through practical management and the negotiations between labor union and employer should be carried out based on such an understanding. However, the government stance on this matter has never been consistent; it first insisted on wage cuts to establish a two-shift work system with three teams by hiring more employees. Later, it switched to a proposal to set up public corporation instead of privatization. The National Assembly, which should hurry to enact the law on privatization, has failed to step forward. With stopgap measures to calm down unionists, the railroad will never be privatized.

Bribery scandals have accelerated the lame duck phenomenon for this administration. Under these circumstances, who will benefit from the walkouts, which interrupt lives and industrial activities? Trains should never be stopped. The labor unions should halt the strikes and return to work as soon as possible.
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