May 14, 2019 11:47
Minjoo Party leader Lee Hae-chan on Monday proposed government subsidies for all city bus operators across the country with just days left before bus drivers stage a nationwide strike.
Lee wants to use taxpayers' money to make up for a shortfall in personnel when the maximum working week is shortened to 52 hours in July. Bus operators claim they do not have the money to hire more driver and will have to shut down marginal routes and reduce operations in the suburbs.
Speaking at a party meeting Lee said, "We will pursue a policy of making all transport companies semi-public." Around 40,000 drivers working for city bus operators in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon and Jeju are paid like workers of semi-public companies. That means their monthly salary is W3.7 million, about W500,000 higher than at private city bus operators (US$1=W1,188).
A study by the Public Policy Institute for People last year showed that the government spent W676.8 billion on semi-public bus operators in six metropolitan cities last year. But that would rise to W1 trillion if all city bus operators across the country become semi-public.
Yet the government had a year to prepare for the shortened working week for bus drivers and only came up with the idea at the 11th hour. When it first capped the working week at 52 hours in March 2018, it warned that city bus operators were not going to be exempt.
City bus operators immediately complained that the regulation would put them out of business, but so far the only solution the government has been able to offer is to increase bus fares.
The new proposal prompted bus drivers in Daegu on Monday night to cancel their strike plans.
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