&#91EDITORIALS&#93Make them keep trucking

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[EDITORIALS]Make them keep trucking

Cargo truck owners in Pohang and South Gyeongsang province have been on strike for five days, which has seriously hampered the transportation of steel and other industrial goods. Amid the North Korean nuclear crisis and SARS, which pose threats to our economy, a protracted strike could lead to huge losses. The government should deal sternly with the illegal job action and prevent it from spreading.
Cargo truck owners across the country, which number around 20,000, cannot be protected as workers since they are categorized as small businesses under Korean law. Their barricades at gates leading to the Pohang steel plant and other steel manufacturing facilities in Pohang and Masan and the stoppage of shipping and delivery of resources are clearly illegal acts.
Their action is causing 20 billion won ($27 million) in daily losses for the steel manufacturers. Strikes are planned in Gwangyang and North Chungcheng province, so losses are likely to spread to automobile, electronics and other industries.
Cargo truck owners demand the nullification of the fuel tax, lower highway toll fees and a guarantee of labor rights. They also want the system of multiple subcontracting on transport orders scrapped. Close to 97 percent of the owners obtain their contracts through large contracting firms, and according to the owners, the system leaves little money for them and worsens the job environment. There clearly is a problem if they work 80 hours per week, 1.6 times the average worker’s daily toil, and sleep five hours a day.
The government or the National Assembly should have dealt with this problem as soon as complaints were lodged. But the owners’ illegal action cannot be tolerated either.
The government did nothing when the cargo truck owners converged on Gwacheon last month and held a large rally. President Roh’s remark to government officials -- “Does this country have no plans when several hundred trucks are stopped?” -- is absolutely right. The responsibility of normalizing cargo transportation lies in the hands of the government.
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