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(LEAD) Tentative deal reached to resolve overwork issues of delivery workers

National 16:49 June 16, 2021

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; ADDS more details in paras 2-7)

SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- Logistics firms and delivery workers reached a tentative deal on Wednesday afternoon to end a protracted strike that disrupted parcel delivery nationwide, volume of which has risen significantly since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Delivery workers belonging to the Parcel Delivery Workers' Solidarity Union, the government and logistics firms settled on some of the contentious points, including the date from which couriers are freed from parcel sorting duties and financial compensation for reduced working hours.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is said to have suggested delivery workers be barred from sorting parcels starting from Jan. 1 and that they work no more than 60 hours a week. The details of the final agreement have yet to be made public.

The two parties failed to narrow down differences on demands by postal service workers that a final draft specifically mention that Korea Post, the national postal service, will implement an agreement, and decided to continue to negotiate toward a complete deal.

Postal service workers have reported their company for violating the Labor Standards Act saying that "Korea Post has demanded excessive parcel delivery from its workers and shifted the responsibility for work-related accidents to workers."

The agreement came after an overnight strike by thousands of unionized delivery workers who assembled in Seoul from around the country, calling on their companies to implement an agreement on preventing overwork.

Around 4,000 workers spent a night outdoors in tents or on mats at Yeouido Park, western Seoul.

Unionized delivery workers stage the second day of their protest demanding logistics firms implement an agreement on preventing overwork at Yeouido Park in western Seoul on June 16, 2021. (Yonhap)
Unionized delivery workers spend a night outdoors at Yeouido Park in western Seoul, demanding logistics firms implement an agreement on preventing overwork on June 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

The two-day protest was timed with the resumption of the final meeting over the implementation of overwork prevention measures.

The union launched an indefinite walkout last Wednesday after talks with the government and logistics firms on implementing a January deal fell through.

Under the agreement, the companies had agreed to provide extra workers to sort parcels and take other steps to ease the burden on couriers, who have long complained of overwork from sorting parcels before delivery and doing so without additional pay.

The January deal was reached by the union, logistics companies and the government after 16 delivery workers died last year apparently due to overwork.

The agreement also calls on logistics firms to provide extra payment to workers for sorting parcels and to work to automate the job.

Postal service workers protest in the lobby of Post Tower in Yeouido, western Seoul, on June 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

On Tuesday, the Seoul Metropolitan Police unsuccessfully ordered the protesters to disperse, citing an unlawful assembly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They said the city government will lodge a complaint with the police against the union for violating the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act later in the day.

"As thousands of people have assembled in Yeouido, concerns have grown that the efforts by the people and the government to stop the spread of the virus could go to waste," police said, adding they will act sternly against "illegal acts" that could put society at risk.


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