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Seoul subway union, company reach deal to resume operations

Unionized workers of Seoul Metro on Wednesday canceled their planned strike after reaching an agreement with the management, minutes before it was slated to start.

The government-operated subway company and the union clinched the deal at 8:50 a.m. after more than six hours of negotiation, the union said.

Seoul Metro operates Subway Lines No. 1-8, carrying over 7.2 million commuters daily.


Wednesday’s deal includes hiking wages by 1.8 percent; employing 242 more personnel in regard to the extension of existing lines and establishment of new stations; and resolving problems stemming from the wage-peak system, which involves a gradual reduction in salary for senior employees. The company further promised enhancement of working environment for female employees and negotiations to hire more engine drivers.

Around 10 p.m. Tuesday, the union declared a rupture in negotiations with the company and stated they would proceed their three-day walkout as scheduled from Wednesday 9 a.m. The union has been demanding an increase in workforce, abolition of the wage-peak system and the formal implementation of the test-operating four-group two-shift system.

“The company and the union agreed the public should not be inconvenienced,” Seoul Metro CEO Kim Tae-ho said Monday as he announced the deal.

The breakthrough comes after four months of conflict between the management and labor, during which they held 31 sessions of negotiation. Seeing no progress in talks, the union embarked upon a work-to-rule campaign last Friday ahead of the strike.

Following the deal, the union released a statement, saying, “The agreement is indeed a move forward as it presents a breakthrough in expansion of the number of general employees.”

However, they denounced the Ministry of Public Administration and Security for failing to meet their demand regarding the wage-peak system.

“The wage-peak policy, which deducts salaries that should rightfully be given to employees not subject to the system, should be nullified,” the group said in the statement, declaring they would continue their fight regarding the matter. The union claims the subway workers have lost around 8.7 billion won ($7.3 million) of potential wages last year and 4.3 billion won this year due to the policy.

The union also requested increasing the safety workforce.

The agreement will become effective after it is passed by the union’s official voting process, which will be scheduled in the near future.

By Choi Ji-won (