AP

South Korea orders striking cement truckers back to work

Nov 28, 2022, 8:22 PM | Updated: Nov 29, 2022, 10:29 am

Concrete mixer trucks are parked at a factory in Anyang, South Korea, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. South ...

Concrete mixer trucks are parked at a factory in Anyang, South Korea, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. South Korea’s government issued an order Tuesday for some of the thousands of striking truck drivers to return to work, insisting that their nationwide walkout over freight fare issues is hurting an already weak economy. (Kim Jong-taek/Newsis via AP)

(Kim Jong-taek/Newsis via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s government issued an order Tuesday for some of the thousands of truck drivers who have been on strike to return to work, insisting that their nationwide walkout over freight fare issues is hurting an already weak economy.

Despite facing the threat of delicensing or even prison terms, the strike’s organizers said they would defy the order and accused President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative government of suppressing their labor rights and ignoring what they described as worsening work conditions and financial strain caused by rising fuel costs and interest rates.

The order was approved in a Cabinet meeting called by Yoon and targeted about 2,500 drivers of cement trucks among a broader group of truckers participating in the walkout. It marked the first time a South Korean government has exercised controversial powers under a law revised in 2004 to force truckers back to their jobs.

A failure to comply without “justifiable reason” is punishable by up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of 30 million won ($22,400). Critics have denounced the law as unconstitutional, saying it doesn’t clearly define what qualifies as acceptable conditions for a strike.

The strike’s damage so far has been largely limited to domestic industries such as construction and there have been no reports of substantial disruptions of key exports such as computer chips and automobiles.

Yoon said the truckers’ strike is threatening to “devastate the foundation of our industries,” citing delays in deliveries of materials such as cement and steel to construction sites and factories. He accused the strikers of illicit activities such as disrupting the work of colleagues who have refused to participate in the strike.

“There’s no way to justify the act of taking the lives of people and the national economy as hostage to accomplish their own interest,” Yoon said in the Cabinet meeting.

Officials said the “work start order” was issued to cement truckers first because the construction industry has been hit hardest by the strike. Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said in a briefing Tuesday that cement shipments have been reduced by more than 90% since the start of the strike and about half of the country’s construction sites have experienced disruptions.

Choo said the strike also has been causing shortages at some gas stations. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the government was planning to expand the order to drivers transporting fuel, steel and other supplies if the strike continues.

Thousands of members of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union have been striking since last Thursday, in their second nationwide walkout since June, calling for the government to make permanent a minimum freight rate system that is to expire at the end of 2022.

While the minimum fares are currently applied to shipping containers and cement, the striking truckers are calling for the benefits to be expanded to other cargoes including oil and chemical tankers, steel and automobile carriers and package delivery trucks.

Yoon’s government has offered to temporarily extend the minimum freight fares for another three years but balked at the demand to widen the scope of such payments.

The truckers say the minimum-rate system is crucial for their finances and safety, saying that without it they are forced to increase their deliveries and drive dangerously to make ends meet.

Cargo Truckers Solidarity issued a statement denouncing the government’s return-to-work order, which they described as an attack on truckers’ livelihoods and basic rights. Some of its leaders shaved their heads to express their defiance during a protest at a port in Incheon.

“Cargo workers who drive overnight while scrambling to cope with rising prices and fuel costs without the protection of a basic social safety net are being pushed into ‘systemic disaster’ situation,” the group said in the statement, calling the order a “martial” law imposed on strikers.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, nearly 8,000 truckers participated in the strike on Monday, and container traffic at ports was at 21% of normal levels as of 10 a.m. It said the strike slowed shipments and deliveries of cement, steel and refined oil products.

Lee Sang-min, minister of the interior and safety, said Monday that the strike is estimated to cost the economy 300 billion won ($224 million) each day but didn’t specify how the government calculated that amount.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

1 day ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

2 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

5 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

7 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

14 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

15 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

South Korea orders striking cement truckers back to work