District courts on Wednesday turned down prosecutors’ request for arrest warrants for eight railway union leaders pending trial over the three-week strike heldlast month.
Some 8,700 laborers of Korea Railroad Corp. went on strike on Dec. 9 in protest of the government’s plan to set up an affiliate under the company, a move that the union believes is aimed at rail privatization. The walkout is the longest on record.
While the government and KORAIL remained steadfast in their pursuit of key figures of the union for staging the “illegal” walkout, the union said it will hold a massive rally on Jan. 18 in Seoul to protest against the political oppression.
“Social consensus on not privatizing KORAIL has been built after lawmakers agreed to set up a parliamentary subcommittee. However, other pending issues including wage talks remain to be discussed between labor and management,” the union said.
The union reportedly called for a 6.7 percent increase in wages.
Police on Tuesday pushed ahead with the clampdown on the 35 union leaders, filing for detention arrests for eight of the 16 members who turned themselves in last week.
District courts including the Seoul Central District Court rejected the warrant requests, saying that the suspects are unlikely to flee and that there is no validity of their detention. Police said they are not seeking to file again for detention warrants.
Despite the strike’s end on Jan. 2, the government and KORAIL President Choi Yeon-hye vowed to hold strikers responsible for the prolonged walkout and operation losses that mounted to 22 billion won ($20.6 million).
All of the unionized workers were known to have returned to work upon the announcement of the subcommittee, except some 500 people who defied the company’s direction to sign up for return as an individual or those dismissed from their positions.
The union vowed to step up its fight at the workplace, saying that KORAIL is intentionally delaying the full normalization of operations to raise public anger against the strike and the union.
“Negotiations between labor and management is needed to fully normalize operations. But KORAIL is only focusing on weakening the union’s influence or taking disciplinary actions,” the union said.
Among 35 union leaders issued with detention warrants, 22 people have turned themselves in or have been arrested. Prosecutors filed for arrest warrants for 12 members, but obtained warrants for only two leaders.
Police are tracking down the remaining 13 key figures, including the union’s head Kim Myung-hwan who is believed to be hiding in the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ headquarters in Seoul.
KORAIL will take disciplinary actions on Thursday against union members who joined the strike.
By Suk Gee-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)