Rail Strike Cuts Passenger Services to 60 Percent
By Kwon Mee-yoo
The rail workers' strike entered its fourth day Sunday causing major disruptions to freight and passenger transport. President Lee Myung-bak ordered strict action to be taken against public workers refusing to work.
The Korean Railway Workers' Union started an indefinite strike Thursday, which has almost paralyzed the nation's freight services. The union claimed that KORAIL unilaterally ceased negotiations Tuesday, which covered a wide range of key issues related to the company's downsizing plan, including wage cuts and reduction of welfare programs.
President Lee condemned the strikers for their "unreasonable and selfish" demands.
"We must not meet the terms of such a union," the President said at a government workshop attended by some 130 ministers and heads of state-run firms, Saturday.
"A strike by the union members of a public business, who are guaranteed lifetime employment, cannot be understood by the people. It cannot be tolerated especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of our young people are suffering because they cannot find jobs."
KORAIL is trying to deal with the cargo backlog. Freight trains' operation rate fell to 5 percent on Thursday, the first day of the strike. The rate was up to 31 percent by Sunday.
"We examined the goods piled up at logistics warehouses and stations, and decided to increase the number of freight trains to solve the problem," a KORAIL official said. "We will finish transporting all containers for import and export by Sunday."
However, the increase in freight trains resulted in a drop in the operation rate of passenger trains to some 60 percent Sunday.
While KTX, commuter trains and subway trains in the Seoul metropolitan area were operating according to their regular schedule, the Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains were operating at only 60 and 63 percent, respectively, of their normal Sunday time table.
KORAIL filed complaints against nearly 200 unionists who led the walkout for impeding business with an illegal strike on Friday and Saturday.