Strike still threatened for Seoul Metro

Strike still threatened for Seoul MetroSeoul Metro workers planned to strike Wednesday morning to show their solidarity with striking truckers, but a final decision was not reached by Tuesday night.On Nov. 8, the unions of Seoul Metro, which are affiliated with Korea’s two umbrella groups — the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) — declared they would strike starting Wednesday morning. Seoul Metro operates metro lines 1 through 8 and some parts of line 9 (from Shinnonhyeon Station to VHS Medical Center Station).At 2 p.m. Tuesday, the company and its unions resumed a fifth round of negotiations but they were adjourned in ten minutes. Then the unions went into in an internal meeting for nearly four hours, with the time of a new negotiation not set as of Tuesday evening.The union will go on strike from Wednesday as scheduled if the negotiations fail.The workers are demanding the withdrawal of a plan to downsize workforce and the increase of safety workers in the wake of a recent suspected stalking murder of a female Seoul Metro employee.Seoul Metro, which is struggling with a yearly loss of 1 trillion won, plans to cut 1,539 workers, or about 10 percent of its staff, by 2026.The unions claim the company broke a promise from last year that there would be no such restructuring plan.Based on an agreement to provide minimum service in case of a strike, the operation rate of each metro line was expected to be 53.5 percent for Line 1; 72.9 percent for Line 2; 72.5 percent for Line 2 Seongsu Branch Line; 72.3 percent for Line 2 Sinjeong Branch Line; 57.9 percent for Line 3; 57.4 percent for Line 4; and 79.8 percent for Lines 5 to 8.The operation rate on weekends would drop to around 50 percent.President Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday expressed “great regrets” at moves by metro and railway workers to launch solidarity strikes with unionized cargo truckers,“KCTU-affiliated rail and metro unions, which foretold a joint strike, have higher incomes and better working conditions compared to the real underprivileged people in the industrial field and the absolute majority of wage workers,” Yoon said at a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday. “The strike by the KCTU is unjustified and we will deal sternly with it in accordance with laws and principles.”The Seoul Metropolitan Government has come up with emergency transportation measures, such as mobilizing additional personnel to maintain the operation of metro trains at the usual level during rush hours.The Seoul Metropolitan Government has rounded up 13,000 employees, or 83 percent of the workforce, mostly retired workers and employees of partner companies, to help out during the strike. It also assigned 183 staff from the city government to help work in metro stations.During the day, when fewer people use the metro, the city aimed to keep the operation rate at 72.7 percent, while raising that level to 85.7 percent during evening rush hour.In addition, unionized workers of the Korea Railroad Corporation (KORAIL) are scheduled to launch a strike from Dec. 2.Along with KTX bullet trains, metro lines in the Seoul capital area such as the Gyeongui-Jungang Line and the Suin-Bundang Line are expected to be affected by that strike.Ahead of the planned strike, the railway union has begun a work-to-rule strike since Nov. 24, halting the operation of some train services, including Mugunghwa, Saemaeul, and tourist trains.BY SEO JI-EUN [[email protected]]

2 months ago Korea JoongAng Daily
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