Taxi Company Serving USFK May Close Doors
By Michael Ha
A Korean cab company serving U.S. army bases could soon go out of business following the decision by the U.S. military to terminate its contract because of a labor dispute.
The company, World Cup Arirang Tourism, has been working in three major U.S. military bases in Korea, providing a cab service with its fleet of more than 240 cars. But the company said its business has been suffering because of the personnel cutback at U.S. bases.
Since April 23, 281 drivers at the company have been staging a strike and a work slowdown, demanding a salary raise, according to local reports and the Ministry of Labor Affairs. The company did not return calls for comment.
The drivers have been receiving a base salary of 400,000 won and have asked the company for a raise of 50,000 won per each employee. But the company said the business has been suffering badly because of the falling number of military personnel at remaining U.S. bases.
The number of American military personnel has been cut by half since 2003, the company observed. It said the company has been losing money and that it couldn't meet the drivers' demands.
This ongoing labor dispute and a work slowdown did not sit well with their main customer, the United States Force Korea (USFK). The U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the military's procurement unit, has said it is terminating its service contract with World Cup Arirang, a move that could put the company out of business. All drivers involved in the labor dispute could be out of job as well.
The U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service said it has severed ties with World Cup Arirang and is looking to hire new taxi service providers in one or two months, according to U.S. military publication ``Stars and Stripes."
The U.S. procurement office cited default as the reason for terminating the Yongsan Garrison's contract with World Cup Arirang, according to the U.S. newspaper. The office is also expected to terminate the remaining contract service involving two other main military bases by June 15.
At the military base in Dong-du-chun, even the city mayor has pitched in. The mayor is scheduled to meet with U.S. military officials there and ask them to keep the current contract in place, but the U.S. procurement office is not expected to change its decision.
The capital exchange general manager at the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service was quoted by Stars and Stripes as saying: ``They weren't showing up to work after we gave them a reasonable amount of time to do so." The paper said military command officials had given the go-ahead to solicit bids for a new primary taxi company before terminating its contract with World Cup Arirang.
The company has said that without the U.S. military contract, it will likely have to close down its business. And with that, more than 281 drivers may lose their livelihood.