Seoul, Nov 29 (EFE).- South Korea on Tuesday ordered truckers of the cement industry to return to work after an almost week-long strike.
It is the first time that the government has issued the return-to-work order that invokes a 2004 law carrying penalties of up to three years in prison for offenders or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,500).
Under the law, the land minister can issue a return-to-work order for striking truckers when the national economy is at risk due to their actions.
The decision comes amid the second major truckers’ strike in the country in five months.
The truckers are demanding that the government extend temporary regulations guaranteeing minimum freight rates to compensate for a sharp rise in fuel prices this year.
Thousands of truckers have taken part in the nationwide strike, which began on Nov. 24 and has already caused losses worth 46.4 billion won ($34.6 million), according to the government’s estimates.
In the cement sector alone, supply has fallen by more than 90 percent, while half of the construction sites requiring readymade cement have faced disruptions, according to the finance ministry, prompting the government to issue an order for truckers of this particular sector.
“Today, the government issues an administrative order for those refusing to transport goods in the cement sector to prevent a more serious crisis for the national economy and the people’s livelihood,” South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said at a weekly Cabinet meeting, local news agency Yonhap reported.
Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho also criticized the truckers who he said have “taken the livelihood and the economy as hostages.”
“If we do not sternly cope with illegal group activities under the rule of law and principle, and sit idle on the livelihood, logistics, and industries, it will become impossible to overcome the economic crisis,” he added.
Apart from cement, another major sector that has been badly affected by the strike is the steel industry.
The strike has led the average container movement at major ports to decline to 28.1 percent of its usual level.
The government and the unions met on Monday to negotiate an end to the strike but the talks failed to yield an agreement. EFE