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Delivery workers announce strike in protest of unchanged conditions

Unionized deliverymen declare a strike in front of the headquarters of Hanjin Transportation Co. in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Unionized deliverymen declare a strike in front of the headquarters of Hanjin Transportation Co. in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Delivery workers said Wednesday they will launch a strike later this week, accusing logistics firms of violating the terms of their recent agreement to improve working conditions.

The Parcel Delivery Workers' Solidarity Union said the walkout will begin Friday with the participation of 2,800 members working for private logistics firms, such as Hanjin Transportation Co., Lotte Global Logistics Co. and CJ Logistics Co.

Another 2,650 members affiliated with the state postal service, Korea Post, will refuse to deliver parcels that have not been sorted in advance, it said, referring to a process that many couriers have blamed for their overwork.

"We hear from the field that nothing has changed," Kim Tae-wan, the union leader, said during a press conference outside the headquarters of Hanjin Transportation, referring to Thursday's agreement, which placed the burden of sorting parcels on logistics companies.

"The social agreement we announced ended up being nothing more than the chaebol delivery firms deceiving and making fools of the nation and the delivery workers," he said.

The union had scrapped plans to strike after reaching the deal on Thursday, the product of monthslong negotiations sparked by the deaths of 19 delivery workers last year, apparently from overwork.

In a vote held last Wednesday and Thursday, 97 percent of the union's members cast their ballots and 91 percent voted in favor of a strike, according to the union.

The dispute comes ahead of the Feb. 11-14 Lunar New Year holiday, when demand for deliveries is expected to soar.

The union said it will end the strike if logistics firms agree to sign a legally enforceable deal rather than the current "social" agreement mediated by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

"Delivery workers can't even dream of a legally enforceable deal between the union and companies, even when serious disasters continue to happen in the form of deaths from overwork at the workplace," a union member said. "We are left in a hopeless situation where no one imposes any controls even when logistics firms repeatedly violate the agreement."

The two sides agreed in the recent deal to aim to cap the workload to 60 hours a week and 12 hours a day, with no deliveries after 9 p.m. except when unavoidable.

Firms also agreed to come up with an automation plan for sorting parcels, with financial support from the National Assembly and government. (Yonhap)