The problems faced by drivers in Korea are similar to those of Australian truck drivers, such as low rates which have not risen for decades and safety risks, deaths and injuries because of pressure to work long hours and meet unrealistic deadlines. Around 1,200 people die in truck-related crashes in Korea each year.
“This is about achieving fair conditions for drivers in Australia and elsewhere. Wealthy clients now operate globally, facilitated by free trade deals, and they are squeezing truck drivers all over the world with their low cost contracts. Change can only come by standing together and fighting their greed,” Kaine said.
Truck drivers and union activists have been jailed in South Korea since major protests began last year, prompted by government laws to keep workers’ pay low, make sackings easier and restrict trade unions. Protesters have been beaten and attacked by police during peaceful demonstrations. Major Korean conglomerates add to the problems of the Korean workforce. Last month it was revealed that 76 Samsung workers died because of harmful chemicals. For years workers at the tech giant have battled poor pay and conditions.
The UN body, the International Labour Organization, has recognised Korean workers’, including owner truck drivers, right to form and join a trade union and collectively bargain. The ILO also recognised driver’s rights to safe and fair remuneration.
TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon in July visited jailed truck driver union delegate, Lee Jae-shik, who received a 10-month sentence after a peaceful strike of owner drivers. “Australian truck drivers stand together with their brothers and sisters in Korea to demand safe rates, and to make jobs sustainable and roads safer,” said Sheldon.