Truckers can’t escape contract debt

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Truckers can’t escape contract debt

A 57-year-old concrete mixer driver surnamed Chung received a notification from the Ulsan District Court, telling him his truck is subject to be sold at auction unless he pays off 20 million won ($17,773) in debt to the mutual aid group from which he withdrew recently.

However, Chung has never owed money to the group.

The problem stems from a page of the document Chung submitted to the group based in Ulsan in a show of loyalty, saying he owes the mutual aid group 20 million won.

It has been discovered that the Ulsan Construction Equipment Branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions forced its union members to sign the so-called loyalty-pledge documents, forcing the members to pledge they will pay 20 million won to the branch should they withdraw from the group or break internal rules.

Taking a look into the documents makes it clear it is virtually impossible to leave the union group unless a member pays 20 million won.

The note collectively signed by truck drivers, which was notarized, states that any member who negotiates independently with a client company in violation of the group rules will be charged a 20 million won penalty.

A mutual aid group member, also a truck driver who asked not to give his name, told the JoongAng Ilbo that it was a measure to prevent members from leaving the group.

The Ulsan mutual aid group for truck drivers, which supports group members when they have family events such as funerals or weddings, is functioning as a de facto labor union as cement mixer drivers are registered as individual businessman, thus are prevented by law from forming a labor union.

The mutual aid group negotiates with concrete companies in Ulsan to set transport wages during collective bargaining. The group is under the Ulsan construction branch of the hard-line trade union confederation.

Exploiting the “pledge documents,” the mutual group will file a confiscation request with a court if its members try to leave the group.

On the brink of losing their trucks, nine drivers who have withdrawn from the group filed a lawsuit against the aid group leaders, accusing them of submitting fraudulent documents.

The drivers claim they were coerced into signing the documents as they were told not doing so would bring them tremendous business disadvantages.

The Ulju Police Precinct in Ulsan is investigating if former group members were forced to sign the documents.

“The legal validity on these documents depends on the level of coercion levied on the members,” said detective Park Chung-choon of the Ulju Precinct.

The de facto driver labor union, meanwhile, has been waging a sit-in protest atop a 20-meter (65.6-foot) tower in Ulsan demanding a raise in delivery fees since April 1.



By Cha Sang-eun [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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