South Korean truckers strike again with auto, battery supply chains at risk | The Financial Express

South Korean truckers strike again with auto, battery supply chains at risk

The South Korean truckers have gone a strike again in less than six months. According to the Unions, 22,000 truckers attended rallies and sectors from autos to petrochemicals could be disrupted.

South Korean truckers strike again with auto, battery supply chains at risk

Unionised truckers in South Korea kicked off their second major strike in less than six months on Thursday, threatening to disrupt manufacturing and fuel supplies for industries from autos to petrochemicals in the world’s 10th-largest economy.

With fuel costs soaring, the truckers are calling on the government to make permanent a minimum-pay system known as the ‘Safe Freight Rate’ that is due to expire by the end of the year, and to expand benefits for truckers in other industries, including oil tankers.

The government has said it will extend the scheme for three years but rejected other union demands. In June, an eight-day, non-violent strike by truckers delayed cargo shipments across Asia’s fourth-largest economy, costing more than $1.2 billion in lost output and unmet deliveries before it ended with each side claiming it won concessions.

The organising union kicked off 16 rallies across the country on Thursday morning, including at a port in Ulsan that houses Hyundai Motor’s main manufacturing plant. The union estimated some 22,000 took part in the rallies, while the transport ministry said about 9,600 people attended, and there were no clashes with police monitoring events.

Lead organiser of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU) has warned the strike could stop oil supplies at major refineries and transport at major ports and industrial plants. The union has said almost all of CTSU’s 25,000 members, about 6% of the country’s truck drivers, will take part in the strike, joined by an unspecified number of non-union members.

The union is asking the government to ensure big businesses are held accountable if they violate the minimum wages rule. Industry giants including Hyundai Motor and steelmaker POSCO were forced to cut output by the June strike, and POSCO has warned that fresh action could slow repair works at a major plant hit by floods this summer.

The government is deploying alternatives such as military-run container transport vehicles and considering securing more storage space in case of cargo pile-up. The Korea Oil Station Association is asking gas station owners to secure enough inventory ahead of the strike, an association official said earlier, while charging stations for hydrogen-powered cars have put up signs warning that supply could be cut.

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First published on: 24-11-2022 at 11:18 IST