|President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a ministerial meeting on the Cargo Truckers Solidarity's strike at the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Sunday. Courtesy of presidential office|
President vows to crack down 'without compromise' on illegal strike
By Nam Hyun-woo
President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered his ministers, Sunday, to make preparations to expand executive orders to striking truckers in the refining and steel industries, with the government vowing to mobilize a maximum number of police to crack down on illegal protests by the unionized truckers.
"The government will not compromise with any forces that collectively resort to illegal acts and violence, and will hold them accountable for each of their infractions," Yoon said during a ministerial meeting on the truckers' strike. "Otherwise, damage stemming from chronic illegal strikes will be repeated in the future."
Yoon added, "The government should crack down on these illegal acts and take stern measures by mobilizing the full administrative forces. … Also, ministers should prepare to expand the executive order to truckers who are involved in the refining and steel industries."
The comments came after a strike by the Cargo Truckers Solidarity (CTS) stretched on for the 11th day as of Sunday. The CTS has been refusing to transport cargo since Nov. 24, demanding a permanent guarantee of a minimum freight rate by the government.
The president signed an executive order last week to get unionized truckers to return to work. The strike, involving 2,500 truckers transporting mostly cement products, caused significant damage to the country's construction industry. Losses have also been reported in the refining and steel industries.
As of Saturday, 175 out of 791 truckers who have received written documents of the order showed their intention to resume transportation. But many of the CTS' members are resisting the government's order, while cases were reported of some leaders of the solidarity threatening members trying to return to work.
"In particular, the violent obstruction of normal transportation and other illegal acts are nothing more than threats to other people's lives and properties," Yoon said.
Referring to a nationwide strike by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) scheduled on Tuesday as "politically motivated," Yoon ordered his ministers to crack down on illegal acts by "mobilizing the full administrative forces."
Having more than 1 million members, the KCTU is one of Korea's largest labor unions. It is also the umbrella organization of the CTS and plans to stage the nationwide strike on Tuesday to support the truckers.
|Deputy Prime Minister Choo Kyung-ho, center, speaks during a press conference after a ministerial meeting on the Cargo Truckers Solidarity's strike at the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Sunday. From left are Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik; Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon; Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min; Choo; Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong; Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Lee Chang-yang and National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun. Yonhap|
Deputy Prime Minister Choo Kyung-ho said at a press conference that there were shipment shortfalls worth 3 trillion won ($2.3 billion) in the refining, steel and petrochemical industries, while about 60 percent of the country's construction sites suffered from shortages of concrete due to the truckers' strike.
"The government will retain its strict stance without any compromise to root out repeated illegal acts," Choo said. "By mobilizing the maximum number of the country's police force, the government will deter illegal activities and take judicial actions against truckers who are resisting the order."
He said truckers refusing the government order will be stripped of fuel subsidies for years, and those who are threatening other truckers may see their licenses canceled.
"Stalling does not make the government weak," Choo said, adding that the government is engaging in talks with the CTS, while the priority is ending the strike.