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(LEAD) Decision on additional return-to-work order for striking truckers likely to be delayed

All News 16:42 December 02, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS media briefing in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- The office of President Yoon Suk-yeol appears to be delaying a decision on whether to impose additional return-to-work orders for striking truckers, apparently shifting to a letup from its previous hard-line stance.

The presidential office was previously expected to convene an extraordinary Cabinet meeting as early as Friday to invoke a back-to-work order on fuel tanker drivers, following a similar order issued earlier this week for cement truck drivers.

But the Cabinet meeting appears to have been deferred to the weekend or later, as the presidential office is carefully watching signs of recovery in truckers' return rate and road freight volumes.

This file photo provided by the presidential office shows President Yoon Suk-yeol presiding over a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 29, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This file photo provided by the presidential office shows President Yoon Suk-yeol presiding over a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 29, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"A special Cabinet meeting is unlikely to be held today or tomorrow. The crisis index is supposed to rise to a certain extent to justify a Cabinet meeting but oil shipments have gradually become manageable," a key official at the presidential office said.

"Nevertheless, it is not the time to be optimistic and relax. The president's basic stance is to provide incentives to workers within the framework of the law," the official said.

Yoon displayed an appeasement gesture toward striking truckers in his Facebook message posted late Thursday night.

The president said he hopes all trucking employees will end their work stoppage and join forces to overcome the economic crisis.

The walkout by unionized truckers entered a ninth day, as they demand the government make a minimum freight rate system permanent, citing surging fuel costs. On Tuesday, the government ordered cement truck drivers to resume work or face penalties.

The presidential office speculates that there has been a clear movement by some unionized truckers and nonunionized truck drivers to return to work, despite the hard-line stance of the militant labor umbrella Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which has the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union under its wing.

Indeed, cement transportation has recovered to 44 percent of the ordinary level, while container transportation volumes have risen to 57 percent of the normal level, according to government tallies.

Kim Eun-hye, senior presidential secretary for press affairs, said the president may convene a meeting of related ministers even on the weekend, if necessary, to respond to the truckers' strike.

"The government will be prepared for any situation over the weekend. If necessary, President Yoon will convene a meeting of related ministers to receive a report on the situation and discuss countermeasures," Kim said in a media briefing in the afternoon.

She noted the government will review all available measures, such as using alternative drivers or alternative means of transportation.

Kim quoted the president as saying in a meeting with his aides in the day that responsibility for strikes based on illegalities and crimes will be strictly pursued to the end.


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