Punish the bus companiesThe National Association of Bus Companies announced that as many as 48,000 inter-city, city and village buses will be grounded indefinitely startiing at dawn today. The industry group called the strike in protest of a bill to grant government subsidies to taxies, recognizing them as public transportation. The bill was passed by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly yesterday after having gone through the Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Committee last week. Due to the business association’s decision, about 15 million bus users will be exposed to tremendous inconvenience.
The collective action by bus companies is aimed at pressuring the government not to chip away at their subsidies. That cannot be justified no matter what. Stopping bus service at the expense of citizens is against the law. Even if their labor union called for a strike, it would constitute an outright violation of the law on public transportation.
The bus industry, of course, has a right to express its dissatisfaction with the government’s policies or the National Assembly’s legislation when its interests are at stake. In that case, however, it should employ legitimate means, such as delivering their opinion to the legislative or executive branches through normal channels and trying to persuade them to accommodate their demands.
However, if the bus industry decides to pose a direct threat to the welfare of ordinary citizens by taking them hostage, it will richly deserve the public’s denunciation, not to mention administrative restrictions. We hope that the industry comes up with an announcement to withdraw its preposterous action and address the situation as soon as possible.
In fact, most bus companies in Korea have received a considerable amount of support and benefits from the government for a long time because they provide transportation services in a semi-official system - under the condition that the industry meets its obligation to serve the public need. The industry guidelines also mandate that companies can receive administrative penalties like fines or revocation of licenses or suspension of government subsidies when and if they arbitrarily suspend transportation services. The public transportation authorities must keep them from engaging in unlawful actions like this strike at any cost.
If any bus company joins the strike, the authorities must apply strict standards so it won’t happen again. If the authorities leave the situation unattended, it will also lead to a cascade of collective industrial actions down the road.