Seoul Subway Workers Threaten Total Strike Starting on November 9, Demanding Reversal of Manpower Reduction Plan

The labor union representing Seoul Metro, responsible for operating subway lines 1 through 8 in Seoul, has announced plans for a total strike starting on November 9, demanding the withdrawal of the company’s manpower reduction plan.

If the strike proceeds as planned, it would mark the second consecutive year of labor strikes for Seoul Metro.

On the morning of the 18th, the Seoul Metro labor union held a press conference in front of Seoul City Hall, where they revealed their strike schedule and future plans.

Hyun Jeong-hee, the chairman of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union, criticized the manpower reduction plan, saying, “Even after experiencing the Itaewon tragedy last year, is Seoul City prioritizing money over the lives of its citizens and workers?” She also criticized Mayor Oh Se-hoon for ignoring the agreements made in 2021 and 2022 that stated there would be no forced restructuring.

She continued, “Seoul City’s manpower reduction and restructuring plans will ultimately jeopardize the safety of citizens and workers and diminish the quality of public services. If the manpower reduction and outsourcing are not stopped, and if the minimum safety personnel of 771 people are not hired this year, the strike at Seoul Metro will be inevitable.”

The joint negotiating committee, consisting of the KCTU and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), participated in a final mediation meeting with management at the Seoul Regional Labor Commission the day before but failed to reach an agreement.

Additionally, the union conducted a vote on strike action from the 12th to the 16th of the month, with 73.4% in favor of the strike.

Both labor and management are at odds, particularly regarding the issue of manpower reduction.

Facing substantial losses, the management insists that manpower reduction is necessary for financial stability. It has been reported that management proposed a plan to reduce 2,211 positions by 2026, which amounts to approximately 13.5% of the company’s total workforce.

The union argues that excessive manpower reduction could lead to safety issues and is demanding the withdrawal of the reduction plan.

However, the joint negotiating committee intends to minimize inconvenience to the public during the strike by following the essential service agreement with the company.

According to the agreement, weekday service levels will be maintained at rates ranging from 53.5% (Line 1) to 79.8% (Lines 5-8), depending on the subway line. On public holidays, all subway lines (Lines 1-8) will operate at 50%.

Meanwhile, the “MZ generation”-led third union, known as the “Righteous Union,” has stated its intention not to participate in the strike.

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