DP accepts gov’t, ruling party plan on extending freight rate system for truckers

SEOUL– The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) said Thursday it will accept the government’s proposal to extend a freight rate system guaranteeing minimum wages for truckers amid growing concerns over a nationwide strike that has disrupted supply chains.

The government and the People Power Party (PPP) announced last month that they will extend the Safe Trucking Freight Rates System system for another three years beyond its scheduled expiration at the end of the year.

Despite the proposal, thousands of cargo truck drivers went on strike on Nov. 24, calling on the government to make the system permanent and expand it to cover not only truckers delivering cargo and cement but also drivers in other sectors.

“We will accept the three-year extension plan proposed as the result of the policy consultation meeting and revise it,” a DP lawmaker on the parliamentary infrastructure and transportation committee said in a press conference Thursday.

“It is the least we can do to prevent the strike from continuing and economic damage growing due to the Yoon Suk-yeol government’s labor oppression, as well as sustaining the freight rate system,” the lawmaker said.

In turn, the DP urged the PPP to swiftly pass the revision and launch a consultative body, consisting of equal numbers of ruling and main opposition lawmakers, to discuss expanding the system to more drivers.

But the ruling party stressed that striking truckers should first return to work for any discussion to take place.

“It is the striking truckers who refused the three-year extension proposal,” PPP lawmakers on the parliamentary infrastructure and transportation committee said in a statement.

“To make up for the economic damage and social costs, they should first return to work. Talks on operating the freight rate system should come after their return to work,” the statement said, estimating damage from the 15-day strike at 3.5 trillion won (US$2.7 billion).

Citing significant threats to the economy, the government has sternly dealt with the walkout and issued back-to-work orders to striking truckers in the cement, petrochemical and steel industries.

The presidential office echoed the ruling party’s position, saying it is the office’s “consistent principle” that the truckers should first return to work and then have discussions.

“Once they return, we can have a dialogue table as much as they want. There can be no preconditions to returning,” a presidential official told reporters.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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