September 2023, Asian Labour Review – Logistics and transportation workers are among the most militant workers in the world. By exercising their disruptive power to stop the flow of goods and services during strikes, they have the capacity to paralyse whole industries and show immense power. But realizing such power takes determined and sustained efforts.
In South Korea, the cargo truck drivers have been at the forefront of resisting labor degradation under an anti-labor government. Classified as self-employed, the truck drivers in South Korea are not protected by labor laws, and they receive different and inadequate pay rates set by the transport companies. Over the past year, their collective struggle has taken the form of protecting and expanding a system that has guaranteed minimum pay rates and dis-incentivised them from overworking which poses risks to themselves and the public.
The system is called the Safe Trucking Freight Rates System, popularly known as the Safe Rates System. It was introduced in 2020, and set to expire at the end of 2022. Over the course of 2022, the truck drivers staged two massive strikes organized by the cargo truckers’ solidarity division of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers Union (KPTU), or KPTU-TruckSol, an affiliate of the democratic The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). The strikes did not secure the extension of the system, but the union has continued their mobilization. TruckSol is now part of a global campaign for Safe Rates participated by unions in multiple countries in a concerted push for similar systems.
Leading up to the launch of the global campaign on September 22 and 23, Asian Labor Review spoke with Gwiran Park, the Director of Strategic Organizing of TruckSol. They discussed the conditions of truck drivers in South Korea, the role of TruckSol in protecting truckers, the importance of the Safe Rates system to the safety of truckers and the public, the building of unity and solidarity among union and non-union truckers through the struggle, and what can be expected from the global campaign.
Read more here.
Picture credit: Asian Labour Review