Seoul's bus labor union launches strike for first time in 12 years

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : March 28, 2024, 13:58 Updated : March 28, 2024, 18:09

SEOUL, March 28 (AJU PRESS) -- The operation of about 98 percent of buses running in Seoul came to a halt, Thursday, as unionized bus drivers began a general strike for the first time in 12 years, since 2012. Despite extensive negotiations lasting more than 11 hours, they failed to reach an agreement with management authorities.

The two parties had been engaged in talks since 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) on Wednesday and continued for over 11 hours. However, they failed to reach an agreement, leading to 88.5 percent of the union members voting in favor of the strike. The union consists of 65 bus companies, and this strike affects 97.6 percent of the 7,382 Seoul intracity buses.

"It's very frustrating not being able to use the usual mode of transportation. I feel like it's a hassle," Lee Keon-hwi, a 28-year-old frontline soldier told Aju Press. Lee, who is on vacation, was planning to look around many different areas in the capital city with his friends. "I will have to take the subway but the stations seem already very crowded."

The strike has caused inconvenience for residents, with many needing to find alternative modes of transportation. Seoul City has adopted emergency measures to alleviate this inconvenience and reduce traffic congestion. This includes operating 480 free shuttle buses in 25 districts to facilitate subway connections.

The number of subway operations will be increased by a total of 202 runs per day. During peak commuting hours, the subway trains will operate one hour longer than usual, and the final subway departure time for terminal stations will be extended from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. "We will try our best to reach an amicable agreement between labor and management as soon as possible," Seoul's Urban Transportation Bureau head Yoon Jong-hwan said in a statement. 

The average monthly payment for Seoul’s bus drivers, after tax, is approximately 4,87 million won ($3,610). The Seoul Bus Labor Union has been demanding a 12.7 percent wage increase, while management has argued that this demand is excessive, especially considering recent inflation rates over the past five years. The management authorities proposed a 6.1 percent increase during the negotiation.
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