The trucker union must return to work

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The trucker union must return to work

The Cargo Truckers Solidarity under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has been on strike since Nov. 24. The militant union’s campaign to bring about a transportation chaos through synchronized strikes by subway and railway unions lost steam. The union of Seoul Metro returned to work after one-day strike and the Korea Railway Workers’ Union called off its walkout. The strong response from the Yoon Suk-yeol administration to uphold law and principles and public criticism towards a political strike helped bring about a wiser move by the railway unions.

Cement transportation has recovered after the government issued a return-to-work order. But the damage on petrochemical and steel industries continues. Losses from the delays in petrochemical shipments for the last 10 days has topped 1 trillion won ($768 million).

In a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, President Yoon ordered the government to be ready for an executive order to truckers of petrochemical and steel containers. The government defined the ongoing strike as criminal activities posing a “serious threat” to law and order. The government decided to restrict oil subsidies for truck owners refusing shipments to one year and also exclude them from express toll exemption for one year.

The strong government response has been gaining public approval. A recent Gallup Korea poll showed that approval rating for Yoon rose to 31 percent, up 1 percentage point from previous survey. The slight increase in approval rating is believed to have been influenced by the stern response to strikes. Hard-line KCTU-led action and political protest have been losing grounds. Younger employees are making their own unions to separate from the combative union groups. The union of Posco bolted out of the metal union under the KCTU. It has complained that KCTU is entirely engrossed in a political battle with millions of dollars collected from its member unions.

Exports have been contracting for the second straight month. The U.S. Congress has passed a bipartisan law to ban railroad strike, although the U.S. economy is doing better than Korea. The Republican Party responded favorably to President Joe Biden’s plea. Korean legislature also must be united against the violent strike which has further damaging the fragile economy.

The cargo union went on a strike twice in 2003. The first strike ended in the union’s victory. But in the second strike, the union returned to work after the government promised to continue dialogue if they returned to work. If logistics stop, the industry comes to a stop. The trucker union must end the strike before it does more harm to the economy. KCTU musts strop the strike and cargo truckers must go back to work.
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