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Politics/Diplomacy
2008/06/12 20:08 KST
Unionized truckers to strike from midnight

   SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- A group of unionized truckers said Thursday that they would go on strike from midnight as planned, heralding a transportation disruption in Asia's fourth-largest economy that is already headed downward.

   Earlier in the day, representatives of the Korea Cargo Transport Workers' Union and government officials failed to compromise on contentious issues.

   Unionized truckers have threatened a nationwide strike if the government does not take immediate and effective steps to cut energy costs or raise transportation fees. They also demand a standardized pricing system for truckers that can ensure minimum wages for services rendered.
The 13,000 members of the union account for only 3-4 percent of all commercial vehicle drivers, but many of the union's members drive large container-hauling trucks. Also, non-union truckers are expected to voluntarily participate in the strike.

   Strikes are scheduled at major ports such as Busan and Gwangyang on Friday, causing a transportation delay or disruption that could seriously affect the country's ability to haul freight by road.

   Many South Korean ports, blocked by truckers, were already paralyzed on Thursday. Strikes in Busan, South Korea's largest port city, saw 83 percent of all containers in the city's seven ports locked down. Busan handles 76 percent of all the nation's shipping.

   The government is planning to provide alternative modes of transportation, such as trains and military trucks, in an effort to minimize transport disruption, while warning that it will take strong measures against illegal actions, such as truck drivers resorting to blocking port terminals.

   The strike comes at a sensitive time for the government, which is under pressure from massive street protests against President Lee Myung-bak's decision to resume U.S. beef imports.

   South Korea's worst-ever truckers' strike was in May 2003 and lasted two weeks, costing the nation US$540 million in losses.

   sam@yna.co.kr
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