The labor union of Dongseo Gyotong, the only private Seogwipo intra-city bus company, has been out on strike again since Feb. 21. It is a continuation of last year’s strike that went from June to October. With all Dongseo routes subject to the strike, the number of buses running inside the city was reduced from 16 to six, which caused considerable inconvenience for Seogwipo citizens.
The union took to the streets at Jungang Rotary, Dongmyeong Department Store and Seogwipo City Hall to protest the company’s treatment and to push for a collective agreement. The union is requesting improvements in working conditions and employee benefits such as a retirement allowance, national pension contributions, and medical insurance. It is also appealing previous pay cuts.
In contrast, the company is stressing that a weak economy requires the workers’ understanding. According to a company official, profits are down as more and more passengers prefer the discount fares offered on inter-city buses. Different from the inter-city bus companies which are receive provincial government subsidies, intra-city bus companies are on their own financially.
Neither side is budging at the moment and there is still no way of knowing whether they will reach an agreement. However, for the first time the two sides have agreed that they require a government arbitration.
City officials said Seogwipo will offer extra five city buses, so a total of 11 buses will run from March 2. Despite the additional service, a quick survey by The Jeju Weekly found that commuters are still inconvenienced.
“To take one bus, I have to wait for at least half an hour. I hope the problem will be solved soon and I won’t experience this again,” said an older woman waiting at a bus stop in front E-Mart near World Cup Stadium.
“Of course I understand the people who are having the hardest time are management and the union. Nevertheless, I think each of them should take one step back,” said a young woman who lives in the center of Seogwipo but who relies on the bus system. “Not only the citizens but also the travellers are experiencing inconvenience. I’m afraid that they will have a bad image of Seogwipo.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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