[EDITORIALS]The strike at Korail

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[EDITORIALS]The strike at Korail

Korea Railroad workers have gone on strike. The walkout reduced rail shipping volume by a third, caused serious inconvenience to the public and created ripples in local industry operations. If the strike continues, we cannot rule out the possibility of a serious transportation breakdown.
A labor union’s right to strike is guaranteed by law and should be respected, even when it involves some social cost. But it is a much different story when the strike is illegal.
The National Labor Relations Commission imposed a 15-day cooling-off period after negotiations between management and the labor union broke down. Once a strike ban is imposed, all activity related to the dispute should be ended for 15 days. But the labor union at Korea Railroad Corp. decided to soldier on, knowing it would be illegal to do so.
A strike that ignores the law under the banner of the right to strike can never be allowed. The government and legal authorities should strictly enforce the law, and the union must take the responsibility for its illegal activities. That will be the first step to establishing sound labor-management relations. Also, many of the demands the railroad labor union aired before the strike are not even negotiable issues. Demands to rehire laid-off workers and hire more workers are a management decision, not subject to collective bargaining or a legal reason for a strike. The demand to turn more than 30,000 temporary workers into official full-time workers is not realistic, nor is it for a union to decide; bills are pending at the Assembly.
Demands that Korea Railroad Corp. cancel plans to streamline its operations and enhance its public roles are more absurd. Asking the company, which suffers from chronic deficits and inefficiency, not to modernize its operations and management means the labor union wants to go back to the days when the company was just another government agency.
We know that Korea Railroad Corp. has many difficult problems that it cannot solve on its own. But those problems can be solved with government help only after the company goes through a painful corporate restructuring and makes more efforts to improve its management.
The demands by the union are not things that management can accommodate immediately, nor can a strike lead to a solution. The union should end its illegal strike immediately and, with management, look for other solutions.
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