South Korea orders striking truckers to return to work

South Korea ordered striking truckers in the steel and petrochemical industries to return to work, widening a back-to-work decree beyond the cement industry amid a prolonged nationwide strike that has disrupted supply chains.

During opening remarks at a televised meeting of the country’s cabinet, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told the members to issue the “start work” order.

Tens of thousands of striking truckers are demanding a minimum wage programme be permanent and broader. The government has so far refused but has said it can extend it beyond the current three years. Two negotiation sessions have not yielded a breakthrough.

“The government remains steadfast. We absolutely have to break the vicious cycle of an unjustified organised act,” Han said.

Last week, the government issued a “start work” order to force 2,500 striking drivers in the cement industry back on the road. About 35% of 2,600 fuel tanker drivers across the country are striking, media reports have said, citing the industry ministry.

The second strike in less than six months in its first 12 days delayed the delivery of goods worth won 3.5 trillion (USD 2.66bn), the government said this week. Steel shipments are running at 48% of normal levels, and shipments of petrochemical products have fallen to about 20%, the transport ministry said, raising concerns that those disruptions would hurt the production of cars and ships.

Petrochemical companies are considering cutting production as early as this weekend because of shortages of raw materials and space for unused inventory.

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