Unionised truck drivers in South Korea have gone on strike at some ports and container depots amidst soaring fuel prices and inflation in the country, posing the latest threat in a string of global supply chain disruptions.
According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), 15,000 truckers belonging to Cargo Truckers Solidarity (CTS) union staged demonstrations at 16 locations throughout the country, joined by several thousand more drivers.
Truckers are protesting the government’s plan to phase out the system to calculate minimum wages based on operating costs, which will most likely erode the earnings of those working in the container and bulk cement sectors.
The strike comes in the midst of the global supply chain’s struggle to recover from lockdowns in China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Activities were significantly reduced at Busan New Port, Pyeongtaek Port and Uiwang container depot in Gyeonggi province.
“The impact of the strike is already being felt at ports, petrochemical complexes, and other logistics hubs, where freight transport has slowed or stopped all together,” ITF said.
Local media reported that while not all of the drivers were taking part in the protests, the rallies threatened to slow South Korea’s exports. Meanwhile, South Korean police have warned they would arrest any truckers who attempt to interfere with the work of those not taking part.
The union is demanding that safe rates be made permanent and coverage extended to all vehicle and freight types. It called for road transport employers and transport companies in sectors that are not currently covered by safe rates to agree to increase pay rates to account for the cost of living crisis.
“The experience of truck drivers in the sectors covered by safe rates has demonstrated that making safe rates permanent and expanding the system to cover all vehicle and freight types is the best way to protect drivers and all those who use the roads,” said ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton.