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Unions around the world vow to stand together with South Korean transport workers as an anti-worker pro-deregulation government comes to power

10 May 2022

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and our affiliates have vowed to take joint action this week in solidarity with South Korean transport workers who are preparing for unlimited national strike action against the incoming conservative government.  

 

Anti-worker government taking power on 10 May 

The presidency of Yoon Seok-youl (People Power Party) was inaugurated on 10 May (Korea Standard Time). Yoon has already promised to put the weakening of workers’ rights and deregulation at the top of his agenda. Importantly for transport workers, the government, supported by conservative business associations, appears poised to abolish the South Korean Safe Rates System.  

This system centres on a social dialogue body that sets fair and safe rates of pay and conditions for Korean truck drivers, the vast majority of whom are owner-drivers. It also places obligations on the companies at the top of road transport supply chains for compliance with these standards.  

Safe Rates has already been proven to improve living standards for truck drivers and their families, as well as to make the roads safer Korean road users.  

 

Global solidarity week  

But workers in South Korea do not plan to wait to see what the new government will do. For the week of 10 – 17 May, ITF unions around the world have committed to taking action at South Korean embassies to voice their support for Korean Safe Rates and express concerns about the attack against trade union leaders already underway. Earlier this month Bongju Lee, president of ITF-affiliate the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) narrowly escaped imprisonment in relation to protest actions he had led. Other trade union leaders have already been arrested or are under investigation.  

 

Action already begun  

The ITF and the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia have already hosted solidarity actions as part of the TWU’s National Council meeting, which began on 9 May. Explaining the significance of this week of solidarity for safe rates in Korea, Noel Coard, ITF Inland Transport Secretary, said.  

“Safe Rates have proven to work, not only in Korea, but also many other countries around the world. Preserving Safe Rates in South Korea is essential for the conditions and safety of transport workers everywhere.”  

Echoing these sentiments, the TWU’s National Secretary Michael Kaine who also heads the ITF’s Supply Chain Advisory Group, said, “the experience of Safe Rates in Korea is similar to ours in Australia. We know that when companies at the top of supply chains are held to account, it makes the roads safer for everyone. We are committed to supporting KPTU-TruckSol this week and into the future.”   

Bongju Lee thanked ITF affiliates for the commitments of solidarity, “KPTU-TruckSol members are preparing for national strike action, which is likely to take place in the next few weeks. We are calling on the government and Korean parliament to act to ensure large corporations take responsibility for road safety for everyone, and we will not stop our action until we get a commitment from them. We greatly appreciate the support we are receiving from ITF unions and promise to stand at the forefront of our collective fight to defend transport workers’ rights globally.”    

 

For more information about the ITF Week of Solidarity for Safe Rates in Korea contact, inlandtransport@itf.org.uk