[EDITORIALS]No rail strikeThe nation’s railroad union warned of a general strike tomorrow. Tension mounted when the government said that would be illegal. The railroad workers struck in February, and another one would not only snarl train travel but also hinder freight transportation, creating chaos and economic losses. The strike would be both illegal and unjustified. The labor union and the government should keep negotiating.
The labor union wants to settle all issues at once. It demands that the management assign an extra engineer on each train, hire more workers, reinstate fired employees and stop outside procurement. The union urged management to cancel its seizures of the assets of union members who struck illegally in the past, and it wants the government to cancel privatization plans for the railroad.
The government has made it clear that privatization is non-negotiable because the aggregate debt of the corporation will amount to 13 trillion won ($1.1 billion) next year; deficits of 1 trillion won are added annually. Reforming the railroads is a mission that cannot wait. The facilities would be owned by the state under the privatization plan, pending legislation says, and operations would be managed by a public company. Public hearings have been held and the bill is pending at the National Assembly. Protesting against what the union calls privatization is a selfish act.
Other than the union’s objection to privatization, other terms of a settlement are already nearly agreed. The government has promised that it would address the union’s other demands. But despite that, the union persisted in calling for an all-or-nothing settlement of its package of demands and has now threatened a strike. If it happens, the union will find it has no public support.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions warned of an anti-government strike in May if Seoul does not settle the railroad union’s grievances amicably. The method the government uses to head off or react to the looming railroad strike will be a barometer of this administration’s labor policies. The corporation and the labor union must respect the law and prevent a strike through talks, concessions and compromise.