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(2nd LD) Rail union agrees to end strike

2013/12/30 11:49

SEOUL, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) -- Leaders of unionized rail workers agreed to end their prolonged strike after the ruling and opposition parties promised to form a parliamentary subcommittee aimed at ensuring no privatization of rail services, lawmakers said Monday.

The union confirmed the agreement, saying there are only internal procedures left before its members return to work, ending the 22-day walkout.

"The union decided to withdraw the strike," Choi Eun-cheol, a spokesman for the KORAIL union, told Yonhap News Agency. "The union will discuss the procedures in detail after looking through the agreement."

   The breakthrough came three weeks after some 8,700 workers of the Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) walked off their jobs on Dec. 9 in protest of a government plan to establish a KORAIL subsidiary to run part of the high-speed train services. The union suspects the move is a precursor to rail privatization.

The government has repeatedly assured workers that it has no intention of privatizing rail services, and promised to revoke the subsidiary's rail service license if its stakes are sold to private sectors. But labor leaders have been skeptical of the assurances.

On Sunday, leaders of the rival parties on the parliamentary transportation committee worked out the breakthrough deal with KORAIL union leader Kim Myung-hwan. The three-point agreement calls for strikers to get back to work as soon as the subcommittee is formed.

The subcommittee's establishment was seen as aimed at backing up the government's assurances of no rail privatization. It provided the union with a face-saving way out of the walkout, as the government has stuck to its no-compromise stance despite disruptions in rail services.

According to the agreement, the "subcommittee on rail industry development" will be composed of the same numbers of lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri and the main opposition Democratic parties. If necessary, a policy advisory panel can also be established that includes officials from KORAIL, its union, the government and civilian experts, it said.

Police and prosecutors, however, said they will continue pursuing the unions leaders for staging the "illegal" walkout regardless of the dramatic deal reached by the rival parties.

Kim and other several union leaders have been hiding inside Jogye Temple in downtown Seoul after district courts issued arrest warrants for defying summons by prosecutors.

"We will detain KORAIL union leader Kim Myung-hwan as soon as he comes out," said a senior police officer.

Prosecutors also reiterated that they will deal with the unauthorized walkout in accordance with the law.

"Those responsible for the illegal acts will be held liable despite a decision to withdraw the walkout," a prosecutor of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office said, adding that the prosecution office will execute the arrest warrants as well.


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