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South Korea's railway workers end strike over rail reform plan

Agence France Presse - December 30, 2013

Seoul Thousands of South Korean railway workers agreed on Monday to end 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 have been on a strike since December 9 in protest at the management overhaul plan they feared would spark mass layoffs and pay cuts.

"We've decided to end the strike," the union spokesman told reporters on Monday. 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 thousands of railway workers including train drivers 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.

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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