Posted October. 20, 2005 06:16,
With unionized dump truck drivers on strike since October 13, the nationwide cement-mixer union decided on October 19 to stage a one-day partial strike two days later.
Also, the executive body of Korea Cargo Transport Union, which voted for a general strike, discussed a detailed plan, signaling that the union will join the wave of strikes. This sparks concern over major disruptions in logistics and various construction works nationwide.
The business circles are expressing their concern, saying that reliability of the country will be compromised if there is a major disruption.
The labor community and related government offices said that day that the cement-mixer operators union decided to go on a warning strike with some 800 unionized workers taking the lead. After staging a strike in the morning of October 21 in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, with its cement-mixers, the union will start a joint struggle with the dump truck drivers union and the cargo transport union.
The cargo transport union had a heated debate on the timing and method of strike in an expanded managers meeting held in Gongju, Chungnam, in which more than 500 union managers participated.
The Government is Firm-
Related government ministries, including the Ministry of Construction and Transportation and the Ministry of Finance and Economy, decided to protect major logistics facilities by immediately operating a joint emergency transportation committee and mobilized military vehicles and alternative workforce if there is a strong possibility of a major logistics disruption. Also, it will take a firm legal action against illegal behavior during strike.
Police said that day that it arrested 321 unionized dump truck drivers who were hindering regular operation by jointly refusing to work since October 13. Among the arrested is Kang (47) who allegedly destroyed a rear-view mirror of a dump truck and beat the driver (interference in business) in a subway construction site in Gangseo-gu, Seoul.
Police arrested two of them, while indicting 135 without detention and issuing summons for 159.
An official at the National Police Agency said, On illegal behavior of the cargo transport union and the dump truck union, we will not only take legal actions but also respond firmly by mobilizing administrative measures, such as seizing vehicles and canceling drivers licenses.
Major Points at Issue-
Transport unions are staging a strike one after another because their financial burden greatly increased due to the oil price hike and because their survival is being threatened by excessive competition within the industry.
Under those circumstances, the cargo transport union is demanding that the government provide duty-free oil, recognize owners of cargo trucks who are classified as self-employers as workers so that they can be covered by industrial disaster insurance, readjust freight charges to a realistic level by introducing standard charge system, improve practice of control of overloading, and reduce toll fees on highways.
Unionized dump truck drivers and cement-mixer operators are also presenting their major demands: assistance of oil price and resolution of imbalance in supply and demand.
Based on understanding of the situation, the government put forward supportive measures on its part, submitting to the National Assembly a draft revision of the Road Act under which shippers rather than drivers are responsible for overloading.
However, the government will not accept the demand of providing duty-free oil and oil price assistance because that could give rise to equitability issue with other industries and because it is suffering from serious lack of tax revenues.
The prevailing prediction is that things will not be as serious as 2003 even if transportation-related unions go on strike.
The primary reason is that driving force behind strikes was weakened as there are fewer unionized workers.
According to the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, only about 8,000 out of 320,000 truck owners nationwide are unionized.
Only some 3,000 out of 50,655 dump trucks in the country are participating in the strike. Moreover, in excess of 20,000 of them reportedly are remaining idle as the working ratio stands at just 52 percent in the industry.
Just 1,500 cement-mixers among 23,000 are members of the union.
Another factor is that union members are worried about the possibility that they could lose their jobs to non-unionized workers while they are on strike.
A member of the cargo transport union said, In areas other than Busan, Ulsan, Daegu, and Gyeongbuk, many oppose strikes, adding, It would not be easy for unions to push forward a strong struggle as they did in the past.