|Train crew members of the nation's two high-speed trains KTX and SRT hold a rally at Seoul Stataion Plaza, Wednesday, as they launched a six-day strike, calling for a wage increase and direct employment by KORAIL. / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Train crew members of Korea Train Express (KTX) and the Super Rapid Train (SRT) went on strike Wednesday, calling for a wage increase and direct employment by the state-run railway operator.
The walkout, scheduled to last until Monday, is expected to cause inconvenience for those traveling by train to their hometowns during the four-day Chuseok holiday that starts today.
According to the union of Korail Tour Service, a subsidiary of the Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), the workers launched a six-day strike at 4 a.m. Wednesday and held a rally at Seoul Station Plaza at 1 p.m.
Korail Tour Service has 550 KTX crew members and 80 SRT crew members.
The workers on strike make announcements and check train tickets, so their walkout is not expected to affect train operations. But many are concerned about the inconvenience the strike will bring as the period covers Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving Day.
The Korean Railway Workers' Union said the company did not try to negotiate despite the union's strike warning and management only repeated its opposition to increasing wages by more than 3.3 percent ― the guideline set by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The workers also held demonstrations at Seoul, Yongsan, Busan and Suseo Stations to inform people of their strike. They plan to do the same every day at 10 a.m.
The workers will rally in front of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Monday and stage a cultural festival as a form of a protest at Seoul Station Tuesday.
The walkout of KTX and SRT crew members is the first since the SRT began operation in late 2016.
The union has been asking KORAIL to raise the workers' wages while hiring them directly to guarantee each one a permanent positions.
The affiliated company said it has to follow government guidelines on wage increases and getting KORAIL to hire them directly is out of its hands.
Meanwhile, KORAIL and the Suseo High Speed Railway said they will fill crew members' spots with 600 staffers to minimize inconvenience during Chuseok.