S. Korean rail workers end strike
SEOUL, South Korea -- State rail workers in South Korea have ended a two-day strike after reaching a deal with management.
The end of the rail strike is expected to affect negotiations over a two-day walkout by state electricity workers who, along with their rail counterparts, are demanding a shorter working week and are worried about job security after privatization.
About a quarter of the 20,000 state rail workers took part in the strike, crippling South Korea's train systems and jamming streets with motorists.
On Tuesday the strike spread after about 50,000 private sector workers from more than 90 companies downed tools in a sympathy walkout.
Those workers were members of an umbrella labor group, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and included 20,000 from South Korea's two biggest carmakers Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motor Co., the Associated Press reported.
The estimated loss among the carmakers, including Ssangyong Motor, for the walkout was 28.1 billion won ($21.3 million), the Korea Herald reported.
The strikes have been declared illegal by the government with reports it was considering sending riot police to three workers' sit-in locations in Seoul to break up the protesters and arrest strike leaders, the Herald said.
Strikes by public-sector workers are banned in South Korea and government authorities were seeking more than 30 union leaders for organizing the protests.
Thousands of workers have maintained a non-stop vigil at two Seoul universities and a Roman Catholic cathedral over the past two-days.
The government has said that the stop-work would not deter its plans to privatize the national railway and other state firms -- one of President Kim Dae-jung's major priorities in his last year in office -- but added it would look into concerns by workers about job security.
The deal with rail union was reached early Wednesday effectively ending the strike that disrupted national rail services since Monday morning.
"The railroad suffered greatly from the strike this time. We must overcome problems that have arisen from it," Sohn Hak-rae, head of the state-run Korea National Railroad, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
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