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Centralized Talks to Resolve Truckers` Strike

Posted May. 12, 2003 22:06,   


The truckers` strike has almost paralyzed the national cargo transportation. But a clue to solution is beginning to emerge.

So far local union representatives have conducted their own negotiations. From yesterday, the national union body, or the Korea Truckers` Association, began to conduct the talks on behalf of all local charters.

In addition, the government has agreed to improve some conditions for the truckers yesterday. Another negotiation will start today between the government representatives and truckers`.

Still, there is a considerable gap between positions of the government and the labor union. Furthermore, some local bodies have not lowered their demands, especially concerning the fare. Therefore, it is likely to take a considerable time to settle down all the disputes.

▼ Fare negotiations beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel = Truckers have decided to authorize their national body to negotiate on their behalf. So far, each and every local charter has conducted its own negotiation. Thus, the future talks will be focused on establishing a nationalized fare rate standards and increase rates.

Technically, a local charter is a separate and independent organization. But, to facilitate the negotiating, they have decided to centralize the negotiating channel.

Fortunately, the transportation and delivery companies have accepted the suggestion. They got perplexed, not knowing whom to talk with. It was not clear who or which union charter was leading the strike. That problem added more pain to the transportation and delivery companies that had already been suffering from the strike.

Thus, the representatives from the two sides met yesterday at the conference room of the Korean Truckers` Association center in Bangbae Dong, Seoul, for the first time.

The KTA reportedly demanded for fare increase, abolition of payment in promissory note, prohibition of overloading, and promise not to discriminate against the union members.

▼ Narrowing gap between truckers and government = The two sides continued their talks deep into yesterday dawn to narrow their positions on the twelve demands proposed by the truckers.

The government promised to extend the non-peak discount on the highway toll for two more hours at night, which constituted the core of the truckers` demands. The government also promised to set up more resting places for the truckers along the highways.

The truckers have also constantly demanded that a trucker be granted immunity from penalty when overloading is detected. The government representatives agreed, after consultation with the Ministry of Justice, to give some sort of immunity as long as the driver himself is not responsible for it.

But the government basically rejected other demands such as lowering tax on diesel and imposing cap on issuance of trucker license, since, according to the government delegates, accommodation of the demands requires revision of the relevant laws or legal systems.

The two sides, however, promised to continue the talks today and pursue a package deal.

▼ Simmering disputes = Still, the strike is not likely to be put out at the early stage due to its complexity in nature. First of all, the local charters may question the authority of the KTA.

The KTA represents 6,645 entities and 125,700 truckers. Not all members officially endorsed KTA`s representation.

One KTA source familiar with the matter confessed, "We did not have enough time to receive the authority from all."

The same problem bothers the government. The government representatives have to consult various ministries to implement what they promised at the talks. In addition, if the government accommodates truckers` demands, it would trigger an inequality issue with other industries.

Jae-Seong Hwang Kyung-Joon Chung jsonhng@donga.com news91@donga.com