Thousands of truck drivers are likely to join the ongoing strike by railway workers soon, a move that could cripple the nation’s cargo transport and port operations.
In a news conference Wednesday, the Korea Cargo Transport Workers’ Union pledged to refuse to deliver cargo in protest of the government’s clampdown on railway strikers.
Police began manhunts for 10 strike leaders Monday with court warrants for detainment. Police said Wednesday it planned to request warrants for an additional 18 union officials.
The sympathy walkout by the 12,000-member truckers’ union would further aggravate the nation’s logistic system.
The railway workers’ strike has already led to a 70 percent cut in the nation’s train freight service since it began on Dec. 9 in protest against KORAIL’s plan to set up a separate operator of a new bullet train service, which they claim to be a step toward privatization.
The company on Wednesday launched disciplinary procedures for 145 full-time union members after filing complaints against 196 unionists last week. It has already suspended 7,900 from their positions.
The cargo union’s action could seriously damage local logistics and thermal power generators. Freight trains transport 80 percent of coal and 33 percent of cement shipments, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Delivery of 3,000 tons of coal to cement plants in Yeongwol in Gangwon Province and Danyang in North Chungcheong Province has already been delayed due to the freight train operation freeze since the strike.
“The union’s action of labeling the government’s new KTX project as a privatization is wrong. The government has made it clear that the new bullet train service will not be privatized,” Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn said during a Legislation and Judiciary Committee at the National Assembly.
On Tuesday, about 30 investigators raided the railway union’s two offices in Seoul and seized their computer hard drives.
The railway union’s strike, going into its 10th day, is the longest-ever strike staged by the railway union.
By Suk Gee-hyun (email@example.com)