South Korea to meet truckers for more negotiations

South Korea to meet truckers for more negotiations

Members of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union stage a rally against the government's return-to-work order on cement truckers in Uiwang, South Korea on November 29, 2022. AHN YOUNG-JOON AP SEOUL -- South Korea will meet striking truckers for more negotiations on Wednesday as concerns increased over shortages of petrol, pricier groceries and economic damage, and the government invoked a law forcing 2,500 cement industry drivers back to work.

The Union officials told Reuters that the gap between the two sides is too wide to reach a compromise. There are 25,000 union drivers who are striking over minimum wage rules.

It's the second strike in less than six months and is causing daily losses of an estimated 300 billion won $224 million, which is poised to slump next year, in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

ALSO READ: Strike: S. Korea orders truckers back to jobs in cement industry.

As of Tuesday, 21 petrol stations had run dry, the industry ministry said. Petrol stations across the country had an average of eight days of gasoline supply as they secured stock before the strike, but stations with high turnover in the Seoul metropolitan area are experiencing shortages.

Out of 985 construction sites nationwide, operated by 46 construction companies that submitted reports on Tuesday, 59 percent, or 577 sites, had been suspended because of lack of supplies, the transport ministry said.

On Nov 29, 2022, unionized truck drivers have their hair shaved at a head-shaving protest against President Yoon Suk-yeol. President Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday called the drivers' demands unreasonable and said the government would take every possible measure to end the strike.

ALSO READ: South Korea's striking truckers say no deal is reached in the govt talks.

The union leaders were angered by the government's work order requiring drivers to get back on the road, saying it was anti-constitutional and that they would take legal action against the move.

If cement transport workers don't comply to the start-work order, the government can suspend their transport licenses for 30 days and revoke them.

The transport ministry and union are expected to meet at 2 pm local time 0500 GMT on Wednesday in the second round of negotiations after the strike began last week, and could face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 30 million won $22,550.

Some 7,000 people rallied for the strike on Tuesday, and the government's hard-line stance showed no real intention for dialogue, according to the transport ministry.

READ MORE: S. Korea transport ministry to meet with striking truckers union.

The government has repeatedly expressed unwillingness to expand a minimum pay system for truckers beyond a further three years, while the union says it should be wider and more permanent.