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Cars and TransportationSouth Korea

South Korea: Seoul bus drivers' strike ends

March 28, 2024

After a rare strike, bus drivers are going back to work following a wage agreement with their union and employers. The strike had caused commuter chaos in the South Korean capital.

A bus driver looks at buses parked at a depot, as bus drivers go on strike, in Seoul, on March 28, 2024
The full-scale strike by the city's bus drivers was the first in 12 yearsImage: Kim Hong-Ji/REUTERS

A wage strike involving thousands of bus drivers in the South Korea's capital of Seoul ended on Thursday with a deal between their union and employers.

The industrial action was the first general  strike by the city's bus drivers in 12 years. The last full scale strike in 2012 lasted 20 minutes.

Bus drivers settle for 4.48% rise

Drivers had demanded a 12.7% hourly wage hike.

The negotiations between the Seoul Bus Labor Union and their employers collapsed early Thursday after the union demand was dismissed as "excessive," Yonhap news agency reported.

The two sides reached a compromise in the second round of talks held the same afternoon, with drivers accepting a 4.48% increase and bonuses for two major holidays, according to the Seoul city government.

"Starting from 1500 (0600 GMT) all bus routes will be normalized," it said.

How was Seoul affected by the bus strike?

A subway platform in Seoul is crowded with commuters on March 28, 2024, as unionized bus drivers initiated a strike at 4 a.m.
Subways were crowded with commuters when unionized bus drivers initiated the strikeImage: YONHAP/picture alliance

There was commuter chaos in the city of more than 9 million people, with over 97% of bus routes affected.

Bus stations were left empty as commuters opted for subways to get to work as the news caught many by surprise.

The city's government had earlier made the decision to extend subway operating hours to 2 a.m. and added more trains during rush hours, in an attempt to manage the fallout.

Around 480 non-union buses were also deployed on routes as a contingency measure.

Earlier Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon appealed for a swift compromise.

"City buses are the legs of the citizens; their livelihood and daily lives literally depend on them," he said.

dvv/kb (AFP, Reuters)