Corea, República de - Striking truckers face arrest, injury and reprisals

The South Korean government responded to a strike by members of the Korean Public Services and Transport Workers’ Union - Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) with intimidation, violence and arrests. Over 7,000 cargo truck drivers took part in the strike which began on 10 October 2016 in protest at the government’s plan for the deregulation of the trucking transport market.

The government warned it would respond swiftly, and on 11 October deployed 4,000 police to surround rallying strikers and supporters in front of the Busan New Port, resulting in over 50 arrests of TruckSol members and injuries in the subsequent clashes. The government also threatened reprisals such as the suspension of fuel subsidies, the cancellation of licences and criminal charges for those who participated in or led the strike. On the ninth day of the strike, police arrested TruckSol President Won-ho Park in Busan for “blocking traffic”.

The truck drivers’ principal demand, in addition to dropping the deregulation plans, was for the introduction of a system of “standard rates”, similar to the newly introduced “safe rates” system in Australia which links drivers’ pay with road safety and makes the entire supply chain responsible for safety, passing the cost of higher salaries and contract costs throughout the supply chain.
The Australian system had already been commended, notably by the ILO, for contributing to improved safety standards in the industry. The South Korean government had committed to implementing a standard rates system in 2009, but failed to live up to its promise. Around 1,200 people die in truck-related crashes in Korea each year.

The strike was called off on 19 October after the government agreed to discuss policies to better protect the workers’ rights, and improve efforts to crack down on overloaded vehicles.

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