South Korea Trucker Strike: Pres. Yoon Threatens 'Back to Work' Order

South Korea’s government has failed to reach an agreement with a truckers’ union five days into their second work stoppage in six months. Pres. Yoon Suk-yeol accused workers of holding the country’s logistics system “hostage.”

South Korea Trucker Strike: Pres. Yoon Threatens 'Back to Work' Order
Image credit: Reuters

Facts

  • South Korea’s government has failed to reach an agreement with a truckers’ union five days into their second work stoppage in six months. Pres. Yoon Suk-yeol accused workers of holding the country’s logistics system “hostage.”
  • Yoon’s cabinet said it will also consider a return-to-work order on Tuesday, and has raised its warning of cargo transport disruption to the highest level as it estimates a daily loss of $224M (300B won) due to the strike.
  • The Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU) demands include making permanent the “Safe Freight Rates” that guarantee minimum pay rates for hauling certain items which are due to expire at the end of 2022.
  • The CTSU is also demanding that the minimum pay rates — which prevent drivers from driving dangerously to earn an affordable wage — be extended to goods beyond shipping containers and cement.
  • Breach of a “work start order” can result in the revocation of a trucker’s license, imprisonment, and a fine of $22,550 (30M won). The CTSU has called attempts to force strikers back to work “undemocratic” and “anti-constitutional.”
  • The CTSU five-day work stoppage is occurring in the midst of strikes by other public sectors, education, rail, and other workers over working conditions and pay, and against the current government’s privatization and deregulation policies.

Sources: Reuters, Al Jazeera, and Korea Herald.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Straits Times. While striking is a legitimate labor right, now is not the time. South Korea depends heavily on its exports, and everyday people are suffering from rising inflation in an economy that is in a weakened state. The strike will cost key industries dearly, and so workers must be prepared to share in the economic pain rather than worsen it.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Devex. Workers have no choice but to strike. The South Korean government broke an earlier agreement on extending and expanding the minimum pay rates and, therefore, they are responsible for all the damage caused by the current strike. Forcing strikers back to work without resolving their concerns will only worsen the problem.
  • Narrative C, as provided by WSWS.  Workers are correct to strike over pay, health and safety, and quality of life. But they must be wary of union leadership which has consistently sold them out over the years and too often capitulates to management and the government. Workers should create their own councils or committees rather than depend on union leadership.