S.Korea truckers return to work after strike ends; shares in companies rise

Yonhap via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: A member of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union stands next to a truck during a strike in Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2022.

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s unionized truckers were getting back on the road on Wednesday after the union and the transport ministry reached a tentative late-night agreement, ending a nationwide strike that crippled ports and industrial hubs.

Shares in some affected industries rose in early trade, after the eight-day strike had delayed cargo shipments from autos to cement and alcohol, costing South Korea more than $1.2 billion in lost output and unfilled deliveries.

“So the strike has been called off until our demands are passed in parliament,” said Park Jung-hoon, an official at the union’s Busan chapter, referring to the process the transport ministry must undertake to implement the agreement.

“In the next two to three days, 100% of unionized truckers at Busan port are expected to return to work after they get some rest. There might be some shippers who seek retributions, and in such cases, we will respond strongly.”

Shares in Hyundai Motor rose 4% while shares in Hanil Cement rose as much as 7% in early trade.

Yoo Ji-woong, an analyst at Daol Securities estimated the strike had impacted about 5,000 vehicles each for both Hyundai and Kia but said there were sufficient opportunities to make up for lost production during June through overtime.

Steelmaker POSCO, a unit of POSCO Holdings, halted work at some plants on Monday due to a lack of space to store unshipped products, but plans to achieve originally planned production output by adjusting its maintenance, a spokesperson said.

“We plan to resume our overland transport of steel products our of Pohang and Gwangyang steel plants starting 1 p.m. (0400 GMT) on Wednesday,” the spokesperson added.

The transport ministry and truckers union agreed on late Tuesday to extend the truckers’ minimum wage system and continue discussing expanding a guarantee of minimum pay for carrying cargo to cover additional products. The transport ministry will also review expanding fuel subsidies.