Railway workers end strike after reaching deal

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Railway workers end strike after reaching deal


People read the notice above the ticket booths at Seoul Station in central Seoul on Monday announcing the end of a rail strike after Korail and its union reached a tentative agreement. [YONHAP]

Unionized railway workers ended their no-time-limit strike Monday following a five-day walkout, as they reached a deal with management over a pay raise and better working conditions.

After marathon talks, the labor union and the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail), the operator of train services, struck an agreement to withdraw a work stoppage that started Wednesday. As of 9 a.m., the striking workers had returned to work.

KTX bullet train operations and other services nationwide will be put back on normal track starting Tuesday, but it will take one or two days for the full-scale normalization.

Last week, unionized workers launched the first indefinite strike since a 74-day collective action from September to December in 2016.

They demanded Korail hire an additional 4,000 railway workers to adopt a four-team, two-shift system next year and called for a 4 percent pay raise and better working conditions.

The labor union also called for integration with the operator of other SRT bullet trains within this year.

The deal calls for a 1.8 percent hike in pay and the formation of a trilateral body involving labor, management and the government to discuss ways to increase employment.

The two sides also agreed to jointly ask the government to review the integration issue of the KTX-SRT services.

The strike did not cause major disruptions of railway services, but passengers suffered longer wait times due to the reduced operation of trains.

In particular, the walkout unnerved people preparing for college entrance in 2020 as they faced trouble using trains to take essay tests or be interviewed at universities.

The union group also appears to have taken into account the country’s opening of a special two-day summit with the 10-member Asean in the southern port city of Busan later in the day.

It will also be followed by the 1st Mekong-Korea Summit on Wednesday.

The labor leadership pushed ahead with the strike, despite the low support by its members. Only 54 percent of unionized workers favored the full-scale walkout in a vote conducted in the run-up to the strike.

“We deeply apologize to the public over the inconvenience. We will normalize the train services safely,” Son Byeong-suk, head of Korail, said.

Cho Sang-soo, chief of the railway union, expressed thanks to people who endured the inconvenience, calling the strike “inevitable.” He pledged efforts to help Korail provide better train services for the public.

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