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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – A Cargo Truckers Solidarity member stands beside a truck in Yeosu (South Korea), June 9, 2022. Yonhap via REUTERS/File Photo

By Cynthia Kim

SEOUL (Reuters – South Korean truckers are on strike again for a sixth consecutive day after negotiations with government officials failed to reach an agreement on their demands for a higher salary. The strikes have crippled cargo transport in the country’s major industrial hubs.

Officials from the Transport Ministry met with union leaders for more than ten hours on Saturday to discuss a third round in negotiations. They urged them to go back to work but could not come to an agreement, according to the ministry.

Unofficial from the union stated that he didn’t know if negotiations would be continued. Without elaborating, the ministry stated that it would continue talks with union officials.

South Korea is an important supplier of electronics products, including smartphones, semiconductors and batteries, as well as autos and batteries. This strike has added uncertainty to global supply chains already affected by China’s COVID-19 restrictions and Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.

Worldwide supply issues are causing port closures. South Korea is facing slowdowns in autos, chips and petrochemicals. Inflation in Asia’s fourth-largest economy has reached a fourteen-year peak.

A union official stated that 100 truckers unionized protested rising fuel costs and demanded minimum wage guarantees. They gathered at the main gate to the huge Hyundai Motor plant complex, which is located in Ulsan. He stated that hundreds of more truckers were likely to sign up for Monday’s demonstration.

Truckers are requesting an extension to the current subsidies that expire in this year and which guarantee minimum wages when fuel prices rise.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, it replied to the union saying that ship owners, who are the party of interests, demanded the removal of the Safe Trucking Freight Rates System.

Around 40 people were arrested during the strike. Some of these men were later freed. Although peaceful at times, the actions were tense in some places.

The ministry reported that 6,600 truckers, representing 30% of Cargo Truckers Solidarity members, went on strike Saturday. This halted trucking operations at Ulsan’s petrochemical complexes and slowed down steel product delivery to the steelmaking giant. POSCO (NYSE:).

According to the union, there were more strikers than they claimed, although it did not give a specific number. Additionally, non-union truckers chose not to work.

A government official stated that container traffic at Busan port (which accounts for 80%) had dropped by 2/3rds from its normal level on Friday.

Container traffic at Incheon has declined by 80% while the container traffic at Ulsan (the industrial center where the majority of strike action occurred) has been suspended since Tuesday.

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