SEOUL– The government will invoke an executive order to force striking truckers to return to work in the event that their ongoing walkout poses a serious threat to the national economy, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said Monday.
The remarks came as a strike by unionized truckers entered its fifth day Monday, demanding the government extend temporary rules guaranteeing minimum freight rates, citing high fuel prices.
As of Saturday, more than 5,000 truckers from some 130 workplaces nationwide were taking part in the strike, bringing the average container movement at major ports across the nation to 28.1 percent of the normal level over the last four days, according to the government.
“The government will respond sternly based on a zero-tolerance principle in accordance with the laws and rules,” the interior minister said during a government meeting.
“If a serious crisis is expected to hit the national economy due to the latest strike, the government plans to invoke the return-to-work order while setting up an emergency police response system to ensure protection for normal transportation activities,” Lee also said.
He also warned the government will take legal action against truckers who refuse to resume work even after a return-to-work order is put in place.
Under the Trucking Transport Business Act, the land minister is entitled to invoke such an order against striking truckers when the national economy is at risk because of their strike. The order is subject to approval by the Cabinet.
Anyone defying such an order can be punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won (US$22,363).
The government has no record of issuing such an order since the relevant law was enacted in 2004.
The minister said the government will also mobilize all possible measures to minimize the economic impact from the strike, such as a temporary permission for unlicensed vehicles to transport cargo, denouncing the walkout as an act debilitating the national economy.
Source: Yonhap News Agency