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Rail workers plan strike from next Wednesday

Nov 16,2019
The Korea Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) said Friday that it will strike for an indefinite period from next Wednesday as it has been unable to reach an agreement with management.

Its warning comes after a three-day strike by the union last month, which reduced KTX operations by 30 percent.

In its negotiations with state-owned Korail, the union has demanded a 4 percent increase in wages and additional hiring as the number of shifts is scheduled to change next year.

Talks started in May, and no breakthroughs have been reached despite the strike last month.

Korail has argued that it would be difficult to raise wages beyond the government guideline rate for state-backed firms of 1.8 percent.

The union started small-scale protests from Friday, although they are not expected to impact rail operations.

The strikes next week will result in reduced operations but not a complete halt of operations.

Labor laws mandate the passenger rail industry to maintain certain workforce levels during strikes as it is considered an essential industry.

The government remained wary about the strike, which could last for weeks.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that it would keep operation rates of subways operated by Korail in the outskirts of Seoul at an average of 82.0 percent. It will also operate KTX rail at 68.9 percent of its usual rate.

It explained that if the strike goes over four weeks, KTX operation rates would decline to 56.7 percent, the minimum mandated rate, due to operational fatigue from replacement workers.

The Transport Ministry expressed regret at the breakdown in negotiations and said it is considering a hiring plan that would be acceptable to labor.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]