[EDITORIALS]Will the government blink?Unionized railroad workers should immediately halt their strike, which calls for the withdrawal of the railway restructuring bill, which has been passed by the National Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The strike is wrong and illegal. It is time that we did away with labor's chronic behavior of holding hostage public transport to ram through its demands. The illegal walkout may take place on a weekend holiday. But commuters on the national railroad and trains connecting cities surrounding Seoul will experience great pain.
The restructuring bill has been pursued since April, based on an agreement between labor and the management. Labor complains that sufficient discussion on restructuring the railways never took place, but the government has held various discussion and public hearings. Also, the bill contains a large portion of labor's demand for repealing privatization and guarantees on job security.
Of the 120 nations around the world that operate a nationwide railroad, only five countries, including South Korea, is a public entity. This reflects the broad consensus on restructuring the railways.
It would be hard to find convergence between labor and management this time because the bill has been passed to the National Assembly. Management, in this case the National Railroad Administration, has no say in the restructuring. These circumstances heighten the possibility that the strike will go on for some time.
The government says that it will not mediate in the railroad strike, even though it is illegal. But the public is wary because of the government's previous action: Witness the strikes at Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction and Chohung Bank.
The government must do its utmost to follow the law and avoid the economic damage wrought by the independent truck drivers strike. It ease economic losses sustained by railway workers as they will no longer be eligible for government pensions. The government should put in emergency transport services to minimize damage from the strike, so it is not forced to compromise with the strikers.