[EDITORIALS]Sympathy for strikersAmid the week-long strike by dump truck drivers, the Korean Cargo Workers Federation yesterday decided that they would also go on strike. In addition, cement mixer driver unions are expected to begin a strike for a limited time tomorrow. If all three organizations strike at the same time, it could trigger losses greater than the 1 trillion won ($948 million) lost during the two logistics crises of 2003. We hope that cargo union groups will refrain from any group action that could take the nation’s transportation network hostage. The reason for the strike is that drivers are having difficulties making a living under current circumstances. The plight of the truck drivers was apparent in their union’s slogan “You may as well kill us.” However, economic stagnancy is continuing in our country and there are many people who are living hand to mouth. These group actions will only create deeper furrows in our economy. Moreover, these groups are not even official labor unions. Therefore, their strike can be seen as a collective refusal to carry out logistics.
The demands that the cargo worker groups made ― higher transportation rates, tax-free gas and lower expressway toll fees ― are barely different from those made in 2003. The chronic troubles of the cargo transportation industry itself ―multi-level subcontracting and a weak logistics system ―have caused the strikes to recur after two years.
Most of the requests are regarding issues that should be decided in the market, while others are difficult for the government to grant because of the need for partiality compared with other industries. That is why there is no suitable solution.
A more fundamental problem is that there is an excessive supply of freight and dump trucks when the amount of freight has not increased. This makes fierce competition unavoidable. About 50 percent of freight trucks operate empty. This is more than double the 20 percent empty haul rate seen in developed countries. As a consequence, there is wastage of 10 trillion won a year. In Korea, the average operation rate for dump trucks is only 52 percent. If these problems are not solved, group dissatisfaction may re-emerge at any time.
The government should be sincere in its talks with the freight labor group but be firm about illegal acts. Those who use violence or interrupt operations should be severely punished. Also, regarding their demands, the government should clearly say what can and cannot be granted. It must not repeat the old habit of giving out short-term prescriptions.