S. Korea's railway workers end strike

S. Korea's railway workers end strike
A Member of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is detained by South Korean policemen at their head office in Seoul December 22, 2013. South Korea's militant labour federation announced a general strike from Saturday in sympathy with striking rail workers, after police hauled away the protesters in a two-week dispute that has hit President Park Geun-hye's popularity ratings.

SEOUL - Thousands of South Korean railway workers on Monday ended a three-week partial strike after lawmakers promised to reflect their opinions in the government's controversial plan to reorganise railway services.

More than 6,000 unionised workers of the Korea Railway (Korail) - about one third of the firm's entire staff - had been on a strike since December 9 in protest at the management overhaul plan they feared would spark mass layoffs and pay cuts.

Korail union chief Kim Myung-Hwan said all striking workers including train drivers would return to work by 11:00 am (0200 GMT) Tuesday.

The move came after Seoul lawmakers promised to form a parliamentary committee to ensure that the workers' opinions would be reflected in the controversial reorganising process.

The eight-member committee was formally formed later on Monday.

The government this month announced a plan to spin off part of the Korail and allow several other state-run firms to buy the shares in the spinoff.

It said the move was aimed at revitalising the debt-ridden railway, which has suffered from chronic and growing losses.

But railway workers suspect the move is a prelude to privatisation and demanded that the government scrap the plan.

They also complained that Seoul unilaterally pushed ahead with the plan despite calls for more negotiations with workers.

"Our fight is not over," Kim said, adding union members would continue to protest the government's move at their worksites.

Police and state prosecutors vowed to investigate and arrest union leaders for staging an "illegal" walkout regardless of the deal.

The three-week strike - the longest by the country's railway workers - have caused weeks of delays and cancellations in the country's train and subway services across the country.

The dispute also sparked a mass rally in downtown Seoul on Saturday involving at least 20,000 workers and activists - reportedly the biggest protest in the country this year.

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