Other planned strikes by unionized bus drivers in different regions across the country have also been canceled or postponed
Buses arrive at bus stops in front of Seoul Station, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The Seoul Bus Union’s planned general strike on Tuesday has been called off as the union and bus companies reached a deal on a wage hike at the last minute before the suspension of city bus services.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday, the bus union and bus companies came to a compromise at 1:25 a.m., around 2 1/2 hours before 18,600 unionized drivers were set to go on strike.
The two sides agreed on a 5 percent wage increase after a 10-hour long bargain that started Monday afternoon, according to the Seoul city government.
As they reached an agreement, Seoul avoided a major public transit disruption.
The union on Tuesday last week passed a strike plan, supported by 87.3 percent of participants in a vote. If they staged a walkout, around 98 percent of the city bus operations were going to be suspended in Seoul.
The strike would have been the union’s last resort after its wage increase proposals were rejected by bus operators in Seoul. The union previously asked for an 8 percent pay hike through a series of negotiations with Seoul-based bus operators this year. The bus operators, however, insisted on a freeze for the second consecutive year.
Unionized bus drivers in Gyeonggi Province, in the meantime, postponed their strike after talks with bus companies and the local government on Monday night, also preventing bus service disruptions in the greater Seoul area, at least for the moment.
The bus union in Gyeonggi Province has been asking bus companies to raise wages and improve working conditions. Bus drivers in Gyeonggi Province, too, threatened to pull 43 percent of buses, around 7,000 vehicles, off roads starting on Tuesday, if they fail to come to terms with their employers.
The bus union, however, decided to postpone its strike in good faith, after the provincial government pledged to make its best efforts to improve bus drivers’ working conditions.
Potential Gyeonggi governor candidates from the two major political parties -- Kim Dong-yeon of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and Kim Eun-hye of the conservative People Power Party -- also promised to improve their working conditions.
Meanwhile, other planned strikes by unionized bus drivers across the country also have been canceled or postponed.
On Monday, unionized bus drivers sat down with their employers in a total of eight different cities and provinces -- including Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
Of the eight, bus driver unions in Seoul, Busan, South Gyeongsang Province and Jeju Province have fully withdrawn their strikes as they reached deals.
In Gyeonggi Province, Gwangju, South Jeolla Province and North Jeolla Province, however, bus drivers only postponed strikes after holding last-minute talks with bus operators.
The Korean Automobile and Transport Workers’ Federation, the nation’s largest bus drivers’ organization, earlier noted that the final labor-management negotiations would be held in nine major cities and provinces on Monday.
Daegu alone pushed back the negotiation deadline with their employers to Tuesday at 6 p.m.
By Shim Woo-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org