No time for a general strike

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No time for a general strike

The combative Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has arranged another nationwide strike. The relay of strikes starts with the unions of public transportation on Wednesday, followed by cargo drivers, non-regular workers of the public sector and schools throughout this week. Seoul Metro union joins next week, ensued by the union of the nationwide railway. Under the plan, another wave of logistics in the year-end peak season may be unavoidable.

The general strike comes when the economy faces the worst conditions since the liquidity crisis 25 years ago that led to an international bailout for Korea. Trade deficit has extended into the eighth month to a cumulative red of $40 billion. As widening trade deficit worsens U.S. dollar supply in Korea, it causes an upset to the currency market in the country. All FX liquidity crisis stemmed from deterioration in the trade balance in Korea.

Although a strike is the legitimate right of the union, the time cannot be right. Export conditions have sharply deteriorated due to fissures in the global value chain from the endless contest between the U.S. and China and from the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. If railway, subway, ground logistics and school scenes become disrupted by general strikes, trade capabilities would only worsen.

The damage will go to the people immediately. If cargoes are not delivered on time to cause disruptions in exports, the losses could be heavy for the people and companies. The damage from the last general strike by the cargo union reached 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion). The KCTU umbrella union is going into another geenral strike in five months, claiming that the so-called “safety freight rates” have not been respected.

The rate system ensures minimum freight rates for carbo drivers so that they don’t have to work over-fatigued or over-speed to meet orders. Fines are levied on cargo operators if they pay below the minimum rate. The rivalling parties have failed to reach an agreement on the legislation. The government is also to be blamed for having failed to coordinate differences.

Still, this is no time for a general strike. The feeble economy could collapse if general strikes add to its troubles. Economic activity must continue to guarantee the rights of workers. The government must come up with wise measures to coordinate differences and stop the impasse before it is too late.
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