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Gov`t –Worker Negotiation Ends in Second Rupture

Posted May. 13, 2003 22:18,   


The port city of Busan is likely to suffer from logistics chaos as strikes continue by Busan cargo workers at the Korean Cargo Workers Federation (KCWF). On day five of the workers` walkout, limited transportation by containers was made yesterday, with government intervention.

Economic loss has snowballed and the port is losing confidence as several foreign ships have changed their cargo routes to bypass Busan and have turned to China and Japan, instead. Korean exporters are also losing business.

Busan Metropolitan City, along with Busan Regional Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office and Busan Metropolitan Police Agency, convened a meeting, over which Heo Sung-kwan, minister of Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries (MOMAF) presided. In order to deal with the logistics standstill, the authorities mobilized 2,532 vehicles, 260 yard tractors of non-members from the KCWF, as well as 45 military trailers and 175 heavy trucks at 8 container ports. The Ministry of National Defense dispatched 40 drivers in uniform.

Container traffic showed a slight recovery from 25.3% operational status on May 12 to 32.1% yesterday.

Still, the storage rate of containers at the ports showed an increase from 77% on May 12 to 81.8% as of 4 p.m. yesterday, suggesting that deliveries were delayed. Considering the fact that transportation work was not normal, it will take time for Busan port to fully recover.

Hanjin Shipping yesterday made a temporary decision to suspend stopping at Busan port for a while as arrived cargoes exceeded holding capacity at the company’s terminal. Some foreign companies, including China Shipping, changed their travel routes, or are holding it under consideration.

Many outbound cargo ships left the port without previously ordered freight, and inbound ships were called at the port with cargos still loaded.

According to the Busan chapter of the association of traders, accumulated damage from the protracted strikes so far have reached 175.25 million dollars as of yesterday, rising from 91.8 million dollars a day before. If the strike continues, the economic loss will grow to mark 275 million today, 489.3 million tomorrow, and 559.15 million dollars the day after tomorrow.

KCWF member workers have yet to return to work after they decided to go strike at Pusan National University five days ago.

“We will not go back to work until our demands are accepted,” said KCWF leaders, adding that cargo workers were not ready to resume work during the protest.

Negotiations between the government and cargo workers resumed at Gwacheon Government Complex during the day, but collapsed without reaching agreement. At the negotiating table, the government demanded normalization of cargo work as a prerequisite to the negotiations.

In the meantime, Busan Police Agency secured arrest warrants for obstruction of justice charges, and began to search for the six union workers who led the walkout.

At the same time, the agency will put obstruction charges against the owners of over 600 cargo vehicles, which were parked on roads alongside major ports, such as Sinseondae.

Minister of Justice, Kang Keum-sil announced, in a press conference: “Government authority is necessary in prudent and appropriate ways to deal with the strikes. If illegal activities become excessive, it`ll be imperative to punish the leaders of the strike for the obstruction of justice.”

Gwangyang port was virtually paralyzed as cargo workers, who joined KCWF`s Gwangyang chapter, had gone on strike for five days abandoning over 200 vehicles in nearby streets.