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Return-to-work order issued for Korean steel and petrochemical truckers
2022-12-09
Return-to-work orders will be issued to striking steel and petrochemical truckers as the government ups the ante in its battle with labor.  
 
"We cannot wait for the voluntary return to work by the striking truckers any longer," Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said on Thursday.  
 
The orders will go out immediately. Truckers must comply within 24 hours of receiving the notice.

About 10,000 truckers are expected to receive the order – 6,000 steel cargo delivery truckers and 4,500 petrochemical drivers.  
 
Last week, 2,500 cement truckers received return-to-work orders.
 
“Due to the refusal to transport cargo, factories have accumulated inventory and they can no longer operate," said Han. "There is a concern that this will spread to a general crisis."  
 
He called the situation "urgent and serious."
 
If those receiving the order fail to comply, they could be jailed for up to three years and fined up to 30 million won. They could have their licenses suspended or revoked.  
 
“The collective refusal to transport cargo by the truckers could cause a serious national economic crisis,” Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said.  
 
Steel shipments have fallen to 48 percent of daily averages and petrochemicals to 20 percent, according to the government, and damages total 2.6 trillion won.

“What’s more concerning is if this situation continues it could have an effect on production, including the operation of the furnaces, and could even lead to the shutting down of petrochemical plants,” Choo said. “If so, it would take a minimum two weeks to restart, causing massive production losses.”  
 
According to the government, cement trucking is back two normal two weeks after the orders were sent out. Cement output had fallen to 11 percent of normal.
 
One cement trucker who has refused to return to work was reported to the police by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Wednesday.  
 
The Democratic Party on Tuesday agreed to accept the government proposal of extending the freight rate system for another three years. It noted that unless the legislators step in, the freight rate system will not likely be implemented again under the current administration once it expires at the end of the year  
 
The DP said as the situation is desperate it will first take action to extend the freight rate system for another three years.  
 
“Extending the freight rate system is the least we can do to prevent the strike from continuing due to labor oppression by the Yoon Suk-yeol government and spreading the economic damage,” the DP statement said.  
 
The DP said it will propose expanding the freight rate system to other types of trucks. It is currently limited to containers and cement trucks.  
 
Unionized truckers on strike since Nov. 24 have been demanding that a temporary freight rate system, which guarantees fixed salary-like payments, becomes permanent.  
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