Seoul, Dec 8 (EFE).- The South Korean government Thursday further toughened its stance on the ongoing truckers’ strike in the country, issuing a second order to punish those who do not return to work.
The order affects truck drivers who work for the petrochemical and steel industries.
The order was approved on Thursday in a Cabinet session presided over by Prime Minister Han Duck-so and later endorsed by the President Yoon Suk-yeol, according to a statement by the presidential office.
Moreover, it urged the truck drivers to return to the negotiating table to work a way out of the crisis.
Last week, the second government had issued a similar order directed at truck drivers working for cement industry.
The South Korean government may issue such orders when it considers the prolonged strikes to be damaging to the national economy.
Those who breach the order can be punished with fines of up to 30 million won (about $22,600) or up to three years in prison.
Until last week, no government had made use of this law, enacted in 2004.
Since Nov.24, thousands of truckers linked to certain unions have been on a strike, demanding an extension of the duration of a special law that allows the fixing of minimum rates for every shipment.
The law, which expires in December, seeks to do away with truck drivers having to work extra hours, putting their and other drivers’ security in danger, to compensate for the increase in fuel prices.
According to the government, the production of petrochemicals and steelworks – two sectors with the largest exports – has reduced to 80 percent and 52 percent, respectively, leading to an estimated loss of about 2.6 trillion won (around $2 billion).
Prime Minister Han also stressed that these disruptions in supply chains will expand to the three main national industries, namely automobiles, shipbuilding and semiconductors.
Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, on his part, underlined that the production and shipments of the cement industry have recovered to normal levels following the government order last week. EFE