&#91EDITORIALS&#93Truckers’ strike causes harm

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Truckers’ strike causes harm

The strike by the independent trailer truckers union is aggravating Korea’s already difficult economic situation. Walkouts by the union, which have taken place twice in the past three months, have caused serious economic damage to many industries. Container transport has fallen by 70 percent during the current strike. Halted cement shipments are causing damage not only to the cement but also to the construction industry. The reliability of the Busan port, which has been regarded as one of the world’s “safest” ports against strikes and illegal acts, has declined.
Until last year, Busan’s port ranked third in the world in container shipments. Earlier this year it lost that spot to China’s Shanghai port, and with the strike it is now in fifth place. The perception that it is unreliable may further harm the port.
If exports, which are vital to maintaining the Korean economy, drop as a result of the strike and factories shut down, the union will have no freight to transport in the future. The union may eventually hurt itself by pursuing short-term gains now.
There are no grounds for a strike. An agreement on a freight rate increase was about to be reached. Indeed, the labor conflict could have been resolved by dialogue. The government has already given some benefits to the union and is currently trying to reform the cargo transportation system in favor of the truckers. The union should have waited until the end of September, when the government’s reform was due to be concluded.
The truckers should call off their strike and return to work right away. The government should not concede to the union.
It is true, as the union claims, that the truckers’ profits have decreased since the 1997-98 financial crisis as the number of truckers has risen with no concurrent freight increases. But rate negotiation is something that should be done by the truckers and cargo companies under market principles, not by the government leadership. If the union sticks to its extreme struggle, it will only make its situation worse. The government should take resolute measures against the illegal strikers, even if they inconvenience the public.
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