Saturday, June 14, 2008

South Korean truckers went on strike demanding government subsidies, minimum wage and raise transportation charge

High fuel prices have irked the truck drivers in South Korea. From Friday midnight, they started a nationwide walkout. According to the latest report, 13,000 truckers, members of Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, have joined the strike. Most of these trackers are self-employed. The rising fuel cost is hurting their income. They are demanding a guaranteed minimum haulage rate to offset the skyrocketing fuel prices, minimum wage, and raise transportation charges. Today, they have threatened to block the country’s largest port.

Earlier, members of the Korean Cargo Workers’ Union held several meetings with government officials but the two parties failed to reach any solution. International Herald Tribune reports:

On Friday, 24,690 containers were moved in or out of the country's largest port of Busan, compared with the daily average of 34,290 before the strike, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. Busan handles more than 70 percent of South Korea's container traffic.

Daily container traffic dropped by about 90 percent in the western port of Pyeongtaek and the southern port of Gwangyang, said ministry official Hong Seok-ku.

Local television footage showed the docks clogged with containers piled high upon each other.

"It's stressful to look at the piles of containers. But the government hasn't listened to our voice," said union member Chung Hee-seon.

The truckers' strike has already caused US$11 million in losses to exporters and US$3 million to importers, according to the Korea International Trade Association, a private association of local exporters and importers.

South Korean Government has declared to take strict measures against the truckers. Hours after the strike was called at midnight, the South Korean cabinet held a meeting. Officials will take legal action against union leaders and government would use any means possible to prevent a major economic upset in the country.

Already, the government has mobilized military vehicles and drivers and increased the duty hours of cargo trains and container ships. The Defense Ministry said that it has sent 65 vehicles to Busan and Uiwang ports and more military trucks are on their way. Police forces are deployed at key container depots.

Related articles:
International Herald Tribune


The Korea Herald