&#91EDITORIALS&#93Lessons of the rail strike

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[EDITORIALS]Lessons of the rail strike

Law and order prevailed over the illegal strike by railroad workers that wrought havoc for commuters and industrial transportation. A government that had been pushed around by the industrial transport workers, Chohung Bank employees and Doosan workers showed some determination for a change, and that impelled the railroad workers to call off their strike. The measures taken by the government ― confronting strike rallies with police forces, starting disciplinary actions against more than 8,000 union members who ignored the back-to-work order and punishing strike leaders ― are elementary and should have been taken in the earlier cases. The government’s actions this time will be a valuable lesson for the Roh Moo-hyun government, which has been labeled pro-labor. It will also improve the credibility of its labor policy in the eyes of investors.
This country is changing. There is a growing consensus that labor unions’ nagging for their own self-interest is no longer acceptable. The government no doubt recognized this when it began to put law and order first. It is also fortunate that the militant unions of Hyundai Motor Co. and Daewoo Shipbuild-ing and Marine Engineering Co. are showing signs of turning more pragmatic.
We do not want to characterize the outcome of the strike as a loss for labor. We want to believe that it was out of concern for the national interest and patriotism that railroad workers chose to return to work fairly quickly. They perhaps realized that collective demise awaited them if they stayed off the job under the current difficult conditions.
Now it is time to tie up loose ends. The strike ended early, but it was still illegal. The plan to seek criminal and civil responsibility for those who led the strike should be exercised, and the workers who refused to return to work should be disciplined. But law and principle should continue to be the basis of these measures; mitigating circumstances should be considered, but that job is perhaps better left to field officials. There should be no compromise that can jeopardize law and order ― that would only undermine the government’s credibility in the eyes of investors.
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