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Nat’l Railway Union Goes on Strike

Posted November. 27, 2009 08:31,   


The union of the Korea Railroad Corp. went on strike yesterday, intensifying the dispute between labor and management of the state-run company.

The union wants cancellation of the company’s plan to cut 5,115 jobs; reinstatement of around 50 laid-off workers; a wage hike of three percent; filling half of the personnel affairs board with union representatives; and the union’s agreement in readjusting the number of jobs.

Management is sticking to its demands of cutting the number of full-time union members by two-thirds to 20; reducing the number of paid holidays and vacations; abolishing the practice of giving consolation money for illegitimate disciplines; and introducing more efficient work shifts.

A management source said streamlining the workforce is essential for survival, adding there is no more room for mandatory retirement because natural attrition is reflected in the planned job cuts.

Another sticking point is the union’s demand for the reinstatement of some 50 workers laid off in 2003 while taking part in a strike against restructuring.

The union claims that the company agreed in December last year to reinstate them by June this year. Management, however, says its agreement to discuss the matter did not mean that the laid-off workers would be rehired.

Management also wants to reduce the number of full-time union members. The union has 61 full-time members, far more than the government-set standard of 20, saying it needs 60 full-timers since the railroad company’s workplaces are scattered across the country.

The company, however, said it is paying some three billion won (2.6 million U.S. dollars) to the full-time union members per year, yet the union refuses to cut the number of full-timers unless a union financial independence fund worth 10 times the annual amount is set up.

Despite the strike, the company said all passenger trains were operating normally as of 4 a.m. yesterday. Subway operations in Seoul and vicinity fell to 80 percent between 9 a.m. and noon, but returned to normal after military personnel filled in for striking workers.

Just nine freight trains were in operation until 4 p.m., however, a far cry from the normal operation of 166 trains.