Seoul subway labor and management, ‘latent’ in restructuring controversy ahead of contract

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The crisis of Seoul subway workers, who are suffering from large-scale deficits and threats of restructuring, is expected to continue this year. Last year, Seoul Transportation Corporation’s transportation revenue decreased by 482.5 billion won compared to before the spread of COVID-19. For this reason, the restructuring plan for 2,000 workers, which was barely closed last year, is again becoming a hot topic. The workers will form a joint bargaining group and respond by negotiating wages.

This year’s wage negotiations, joint bargaining without three unions

According to on the 3rd, the Seoul Transportation Corporation started joint negotiations with the Seoul Transportation Corporation union and the Seoul Transportation Corporation integrated union on the 27th of last month. The 3rd union, Seoul Transportation Corporation Righteous Union, wanted individual bargaining, but decided not to participate in the joint bargaining as the Seoul Transportation Corporation decided to negotiate. It is judged that there is no reason to participate because the positions and viewpoints of the 1st and 2nd unions are very different. “Considering the company’s negotiating capabilities, we decided that establishing a more stable representative negotiation system than individual negotiation could increase negotiation efficiency,” the official explained.

In the case of Seoul Transportation Corporation, wage and collective bargaining was concluded last year, so this year was only wage bargaining. In reality, however, it is highly likely to become an extension of last year’s negotiations. The wage negotiations themselves are not subject to large fluctuations as the discussion is based on the wage increase rate of civil servants. In addition, the controversy over the restructuring of 1,971 workers, which was requested by the Seoul Metropolitan Government last year and promoted by the Seoul Transportation Corporation, is expected to continue this year.

The background is profitability. Structural problems such as free-ride fares for the elderly and the preservation of bus transfer discounts that have existed for many years, as well as the business crisis aggravated by the continued spread of COVID-19, are fueling the restructuring of workers again.

Last year, transportation revenue decreased by 1.15 trillion won for two consecutive years.

As a result of the Seoul Transportation Corporation’s analysis of the number of people transported and transport revenue last year, the impact of Corona 19 has spread further. The annual transport capacity is 1.95 billion. Compared to 2020, the number increased by 16.57 million. The construction company explained, “The number of people transported slightly increased, but considering the addition of the number of people using the newly opened Gangil, Hanam City Hall, Hanam Geomdansan Stations on Line 5 and Namwirye Station on Line 8, it is virtually unchanged.” In addition, compared to the 2.276,249,000 people before the spread of COVID-19, 775.21 million people decreased.

As a result, transportation income also decreased. Last year, transportation revenue was 1.15 trillion won. It was down 39 billion won from 1.193.2 trillion won in 2020. Compared to 2019’s transportation revenue of 1.63 trillion won, the decline is even greater.

In such a situation, as Seoul Transportation Corporation promoted issues such as reduction of the number of subway late-night extensions and the relocation of some sections of the subway, which had been agreed upon through labor-management agreement, the gap between labor and management deepened again. Until now, some of the reduction factors have been recognized through labor-management agreements, but if Seoul Transportation Corporation pushes forward more strongly in the future, the same conflict as last year is highly likely to recur. Union officials believe that if Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon is re-elected in the nationwide local elections in May, the demand for restructuring of 1,971 people will increase.

270 million won in free-riding loss;
Government conservation plan rejected by the National Assembly

In the meantime, there is still a slow discussion on whether the local government or the government will compensate for the cost of free rides or transfers. Except for Seoul, other cities and provinces compensate for some of the costs such as transfer discounts. Seoul Transportation Corporation’s free passengers last year amounted to 25,748,000, accounting for 15.9% of the total number of passengers. Their free transport conversion amount is 278.438 billion won.

Last year, the government proposed a bill to preserve it, but it was canceled due to opposition from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance. Justice Party lawmaker Lee Eun-joo, who introduced the bill, said, “We discussed with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which is the responsible ministry, but the discussion was canceled because the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Economy and Finance delivered a detour. This is an argument that has already been filtered out in the process of discussion with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and now the key is the will to organize the budget.”

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