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Ministers warn of stern action against rail strike

Ministers warn of stern action against rail strike

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Published : 2013-12-11 20:28
Updated : 2013-12-11 20:28

Conflicts between the government and unionized rail workers intensified on Wednesday as the ministries threatened to take stern action against the employees if they continued their “illegal” strike against a new bullet train operation plan.

Six related ministries issued a joint statement urging the workers to return to work and stressing that their actions were causing massive public inconvenience and hurting the nation’s economy.

The Korean Railway Workers’ Union launched a general strike on Monday in protest of KORAIL’s plan to establish an affiliate for a new bullet train line. The union believes the plan would eventually lead to the privatization of the company, mass job losses and fare hikes.

“(The government) will not privatize the rail operation without the public’s assent,” Transport Minister Suh Seoung-hwan said, reading the statement.

“The plan is to offer quality service to the public by establishing a competing structure for the nation’s rail operation system that is currently monopolized by KORAIL,” the minister added.

The government has reiterated that KORAIL and other state institutions will take the entire stake in the new KTX subsidiary and block private investors from participating in the project.

The union refused to step back and urged the government to withdraw the plan by Saturday.

“If the government and the ruling party don’t respond to our demand by 2 p.m. on Dec. 14, we cannot help but to intensify (the level of) protests,” the union said.

The union filed for an injunction on Wednesday asking a district court to invalidate the KTX spin-off plan, which was approved by KORAIL’s board on the previous day.

The union said it plans to file charges of malpractice with the prosecution against the board members, saying their decision may cause financial damage to the company and harm the public.

KORAIL officials said that the ongoing strike launched by rail workers has started to affect cargo train services, causing a partial transport delay of raw materials to industrial complexes nationwide, officials said Wednesday.

Some factories that manufacture construction supplies in Gangwon Province have already shut down operations. The number of businesses affected by the strike is expected to grow if the union continues its protest for the rest of the week.

“There is a high possibility of the strike causing a major delay of cargo transport if it continues to next week. We are keeping an eye on it,” an official at the state-run Korea Railroad Corp.

The company has reduced the operation of cargo transport services by nearly 70 percent, he added.

KORAIL said that it had removed 6,748 workers from their positions as of Wednesday afternoon.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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