South Korea’s government and truckers remain at odds over a wages deal, the lead union said on Wednesday, hours before the planned start of a strike that is stoking fears over the nation’s post-pandemic recovery and global supply chains, APA reports citing Reuters.
The nationwide strike by truckers unions, expected to start at midnight (1500 GMT), would be the second in less than six months to disrupt manufacturing and fuel supplies in the world’s 10th-largest economy.
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Tuesday urged the truckers to scrap the plan to spare the economy, warning it would cause logistics paralysis and irreversible damage.
In June, an eight-day strike by truckers delayed cargo shipments for industries from autos to semiconductors in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, costing more than $1.2 billion in lost output and unmet deliveries.
Industry giants including Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) and steelmaker POSCO (005490.KS) were forced to cut output due to the June strike, and POSCO has warned the fresh action could slow repair works at a major plant hit by floods this summer.
The Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU), which is organising the multi-union strike, has demanded that the government extend its “Safe Trucking Freight Rate”, a policy launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to guarantee a minimum annual wage that is due to expire in December.
The government and ruling party offered a three-year extension of the rate policy on Tuesday, but refused to accept the unions’ demand for covering truckers in other industries, including fuel and steel. CTSU rejected that compromise deal.
“The government and the ruling party are ignoring our demands but only representing the shippers and neutralising the safe freight system, in complete defiance of the agreement from June,” CTSU said in a statement.
The transport ministry had said some 7,000 people participated in the June strike, while the union said more than 22,000 took part.
“We had left a minimum breathing room last time but we’re cornered now given the deadline, and will block as many shipments as possible,” Lee Eung-joo, a union official, told Reuters.
He added that almost all of CTSU’s 25,000 members would take part in the upcoming strike, joined by an unspecified number of non-union members.
The Korea International Trade Association, a shippers’ body, said on Wednesday that it has created a task force to handle any disruptions and minimise trade damage.