S. Korea taxi drivers say they'll continue strike despite warning
July 25, 2006
SEOUL — Worldcup Arirang Taxi. Co. drivers say they’ll continue their strike Monday, even though they’ve been warned they could lose current or future employment as Army and Air Force Exchange Service contractors.
At a rally Sunday in Seoul, drivers said they didn’t believe AAFES would carry out the “threat” of barring them from contracted work.
“They should talk to the company,” said Bae Sam-jin, an Area II driver who has become a de facto union spokesman due to his English language abilities. “We’ll never give up.”
Bae said Arirang officials met with the union for 90 minutes Saturday night, but that nothing was resolved.
“Nothing improved,” he said. “It’s the same thing.”
During a rally Saturday in Seoul, AAFES Pacific services manager Cliff Choy told the drivers they could receive “17-1” letters citing them for unacceptable performance if they didn’t break the strike and return to work Monday.
“The AAFES request is that your union return to work,” Choy told the crowd through a translator. “If they do not go back to work, we will send the letter.”
Area I drivers began their strike July 14 and Area II drivers followed suit early on July 15.
The drivers, striking because they say Arirang won’t increase their monthly salary, claim AAFES is siding with their bosses.
AAFES officials also have told Arirang they have until Monday to explain how they plan to resolve the conflict that has left base residents without full on-base taxi service.
Earlier this week, officials arranged for an off-base taxi company to provide temporary service from Uijeongbu — outside Camp Red Cloud in Area I. And non-union employees and some union drivers who broke the strike began providing limited service in Area II earlier in the week.
Arirang officials in Seoul have not spoken to Stars and Stripes about the strike, despite repeated attempts. But on Wednesday, Choi Byeong-sik, an Arirang Dongducheon office manager in Area I, said the company cannot afford any raise and contended the strike is jeopardizing jobs for everyone at the company.
Drivers want a $105 monthly raise; most make between $1,259 and $1,363 a month, not including tips.
Some drivers said Saturday that Arirang also wants to increase the daily quota each driver must make in fares. Each driver now must now make $87 during a 13-hour shift before splitting fare earnings evenly with the company. Drivers on Saturday said the company wants to raise that to $125.
A Yongsan-based driver averages $130 per day or $160 if the day includes a trip to Incheon International Airport, said Yim Y.C., who’s been driving for four years.
Teri Weaver contributed to this report.