The demonstrators accused President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative government of labor oppression and ignoring what they described as the truckers’ harsh work conditions and financial struggles.
Thousands of demonstrators representing organised labor have marched in South Korea’s capital denouncing government attempts to force thousands of striking truckers back to work after they walked out in a dispute over the price of freight.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or major clashes from the protests near the National Assembly in Seoul on Saturday.
The marchers, mostly members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, accused President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative government of labor oppression and ignoring what they described as the truckers’ harsh work conditions and financial struggles, worsened further by rising fuel costs.
Permanent minimum freight rate
Strikers have been calling for the government to make permanent a minimum freight rate system that is to expire at the end of 2022.
While the minimum fares are currently applied to shipping containers and cement, the strikers also call for the benefits to be expanded to other cargo.
Yoon’s government has offered to temporarily extend the minimum freight fares for another three years but balked at the demand to widen the scope of such payments.
The truckers say the minimum-rate system is crucial for their finances and personal safety, saying that without it they are forced to increase their deliveries and drive dangerously to make ends meet.
Order for trucks to return
The government on Tuesday issued an order for some 2,500 drivers of cement trucks to return to work, saying that their walkout is rattling the national economy.
Tuesday’s order marked the first time a South Korean government exercised its powers under a law revised in 2004 to force truckers back to their jobs.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many truckers returned to their jobs following the order as their union vowed to continue the strike.
A failure to comply without “justifiable reason” is punishable by up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of $22,400.