Time to derail the strikeThe protracted strike by the Korean Railway Workers’ Union has caused difficulties with cargo transport and has also created a number of logistical headaches for the public.
Only 60 percent of Saemaeul and Mugunghwa passenger trains are running, and only 68 cargo trains, which amounts to 27 percent, are operating on time.
Meanwhile, Korail is relying on 14,000 individuals, or 55 percent of its regular workforce, to keep things moving, but some 4,300 of them are emergency workers - including soldiers, Korea National Railroad College students and even retired Korail workers. They have complained of fatigue but since there aren’t enough backups, they can only take occasional breaks.
The striking union workers, on the other hand, are gathering every other day and they are holding singing competitions or playing football. It’s doubtful that they are concerned about the nation and the people, and that’s a big shame.
The government issued a statement Tuesday to urge the unionized workers to put an immediate end to their strike and return to work. The government called the strike illegal and irresponsible, it said that the strike has taken the air out of the economic recovery.
Prosecutors and police obtained arrest warrants to detain 15 union executives. It appears that the government is leading the efforts to bring the railway strike to an end. The government also seems willing to show that it won’t be dragged along by an illegal strike that has almost become an annual event.
Indeed, this strike isn’t about survival or about improving working conditions. There are about 400 employees whose annual salaries are in the 90 million won ($77,940) range, on par with the Korail chief. At a time when the youth unemployment rate has reached 8 percent, the railway workers’ strike is indeed, as the government has argued, a display of “excessive selfishness.” And by making the unreasonable demand that their fired ex-colleagues be reinstated, the union has essentially turned this into a “political strike.”
The union must end the work stoppage immediately and re-enter negotiations with the management. This is no time to engage in a battle of wills, nor is it the time to stage a political strike at the expense of the public. When there are operating deficits of more than 600 billion won each year, annual strikes such as this make the people sick. Strikes are such a frequent occurrence that people just put up with the disruptions.
However, the government has said it would be merciless in its strict application of the law - as it should be.