In the face of a tough government response and serious potential damage to the country’s economy, more than 25,000 unionized truck drivers in South Korea continue on strike, reported Supply Chain Insights.
The strike has caused major disruptions in shipments from car manufacturers and oil refineries, as well as cement and steel supplies.
Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union members are calling for the government to increase their minimum wage to compensate for the rising cost of fuel and to keep its promise to renew the Safe Trucking Freight Rates system. A previous strike in June, which cost the South Korean economy an estimated $1.2 billion, was halted when the government persuaded the drivers to return to work with the promise of further negotiations.
Currently, government and union negotiators have made no progress on the basic disagreements over minimum pay rules.
According to Supply Chain Insights, the prospects are good “that the strike will die down this week, but since things are so dynamic right now, shippers should expect delays for both imports and exports from South Korea.”
“Although the striking truckers only represent a small percentage of more than 420,000 unionized drivers in South Korea, they are blocking key transport locations in Uiwang, Busan, and Pyeongtaek, where the country’s major industrial plants and ports are located. By blockading South Korea’s major container ports, the strikers were able to significantly reduce import container movements,” Supply Chain Insights reported.
Import containers at the Port of Busan now wait for nearly seven days before being picked up.
South Korean officials promised to impose penalties on those who did not comply with an executive return-to-work order. In early December, President Yoon Suk Yeol called for those who violated laws during the strike to be punished and ordered ministers to minimize the damage by employing different drivers and military personnel, according to Supply Chain Insights.