S.Korea police clamp down on rail strike leaders
AFP: 29 Nov, 2009
SEOUL — South Korean police began clamping down Monday on leaders of a railway strike which has halted 70 percent of freight train services and started taking a toll on industry.
South Korean police have begun clamping down on leaders of a railway strike
Police said they summoned 44 union leaders for questioning on charges of leading an illegal walkout. "If they ignore our summons we will seek court warrants to arrest them," a National Police Agency spokesman told AFP.
About 16,000 members of the 25,000-strong union of KORAIL, the country's railway monopoly, walked out Thursday in protest at the company's plans to cut jobs and wages and reduce welfare benefits to reduce its deficit.
KORAIL has filed complaints against 182 unionists for impeding business with an illegal strike.
Police say the strikers violated the law by stopping work to demand the reinstatement of dismissed workers.
President Lee Myung-Bak has urged stern action against the strikers, accusing them of hampering the country's efforts for economic recovery.
"There must not be a convenient compromise this time," Lee said Friday night.
"The walkout by unionised workers of public corporations, who are guaranteed lifetime job security, cannot be understood by the people at a time when hundreds of thousands of young people are struggling to land jobs."
KORAIL said the walkout had cost about 4.76 billion won (four million dollars) in losses as of Monday morning. Some 70 percent of cargo train services remained idle Monday along with 40 percent of passenger train services.
KORAIL accounts for only about seven percent of the country's passenger and cargo transport but the strike has begun taking a toll on industrial activities.
Electronic firms and other exporters have not experienced any major problems but other companies which rely heavily on rail transport, such as cement and coal producers, have been hit hard.
"Our stocks have been increasing rapidly. If the current situation goes on, we have no choice but to keep our plants idle," Kang Byung-Chul, a Ssangyong Cement manager, told Yonhap news agency.
The walkout comes as Lee's administration is locked in tough negotiations over a bill seen by unionists as curbing their activities.
About 12,000 public-sector workers held an anti-government rally Saturday in Seoul after two umbrella union bodies threatened to stage a rare joint strike next month.
The bill would allow multiple unions at each workplace and ban employers from paying wages to full-time union officials.
Strike hitting travelers and cargo shipments
JoongAng Daily: November 30, 2009
Many empty freight train cars were grounded yesterday at Obong Station in Uiwang, Gyeonggi, where an inland container depot is located as railway workers continued a general strike for the fourth day. [YONHAP]
During the fourth day of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union’s strike yesterday, passenger train operations were disrupted after the Korea Railroad Corporation assigned some workers operating those trains to instead operate ones hauling cargo. Cargo train operations partially improved.
The number of Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains in operation reduced by 30 and 120, respectively, which lowered by about 40 percent the number of trains in operation. Seoul Station in central Seoul was congested with passengers throughout the day.
“It is so absurd that trains cannot be in operation. I came to Seoul to meet my family and parents during the weekend but I cannot go back to Busan to work,” said Jeon Seok-ju, who had earlier purchased a Saemaeul train ticket for 7:20 p.m. Like Jeon, there were some 4,000 other passengers who had to cancel trips.
Problems dealing with cargo congestion at Inland Container Depot in Uiwang, Gyeonggi, were resolved partially as Korail utilized 68 extra cargo trains during the weekend to transport some 650 containers to ports in Busan and Gwangyang, South Jeolla.
Korail mobilized some 9,600 regular and 4,200 emergency workers - including retired Korail train drivers, Korail office workers and military personnel who hold licenses for train operations - yesterday alone. The combined number only accounts for 55 percent of the daily workforce.
“Many emergency workers are getting tired. We have no choice but to give them breaks beginning early this week and the number of workers will decrease even more,” said an official at Korail who asked not to be named.
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is planning to urge passengers to take either expressways or cross-country buses.
The ministry will also lend cargo trucks to shippers to use for emergency transportation. The strike cost Korail 3.7 billion won ($3.1 million) from Thursday to Saturday. “We will use this opportunity to correct the union’s habitual custom of going on strikes and its irrational system,” Korail CEO Huh Joon-young said. “We are going to also ask for deep understanding from people who had to suffer inconvenience due to the strike.” Huh stressed that there will be no negotiations unless the union ends its strike. The union showed no signs of doing that.
“The union went on strike because the firm abrogated its collective bargaining agreement unilaterally while the government is pushing forward with advancing public firms,” Baek Nam-hui, an executive in charge of managing information of the union, said. “We have no plan to end the strike as long as the government is pushing for personnel restructuring.”
“In a situation where a number of young job seekers are in pain getting jobs, people cannot understand and they will not understand the illegal strike caused by a public firm’s union workers whose employment period is guaranteed. Compromises should not be made with the strikers,” Blue House spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye quoted President Lee Myung-bak as saying on Saturday.
Rail Strike Cuts Passenger Services to 60 Percent
The Korea Times: 11-29-2009 여성 남성
By Kwon Mee-yoo, Staff Reporter
The rail workers' strike entered its fourth day Sunday causing major disruptions to freight and passenger transport. President Lee Myung-bak ordered strict action to be taken against public workers refusing to work.
The Korean Railway Workers' Union started an indefinite strike Thursday, which has almost paralyzed the nation's freight services. The union claimed that KORAIL unilaterally ceased negotiations Tuesday, which covered a wide range of key issues related to the company's downsizing plan, including wage cuts and reduction of welfare programs.
President Lee condemned the strikers for their "unreasonable and selfish" demands.
"We must not meet the terms of such a union," the President said at a government workshop attended by some 130 ministers and heads of state-run firms, Saturday.
"A strike by the union members of a public business, who are guaranteed lifetime employment, cannot be understood by the people. It cannot be tolerated especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of our young people are suffering because they cannot find jobs."
KORAIL is trying to deal with the cargo backlog. Freight trains' operation rate fell to 5 percent on Thursday, the first day of the strike. The rate was up to 31 percent by Sunday.
"We examined the goods piled up at logistics warehouses and stations, and decided to increase the number of freight trains to solve the problem," a KORAIL official said. "We will finish transporting all containers for import and export by Sunday."
However, the increase in freight trains resulted in a drop in the operation rate of passenger trains to some 60 percent Sunday.
While KTX, commuter trains and subway trains in the Seoul metropolitan area were operating according to their regular schedule, the Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains were operating at only 60 and 63 percent, respectively, of their normal Sunday time table.
KORAIL filed complaints against nearly 200 unionists who led the walkout for impeding business with an illegal strike on Friday and Saturday.