Moves comes after President Yoon Suk-yeol presided over cabinet meeting to discuss invoking tough strike-busting laws.
South Korea’s government has decided to take the unprecedented step of invoking tough strike-busting laws to end a six-day stoppage by truck drivers that is hurting the economy.
President Yoon Suk-yeol earlier presided over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discuss issuing a start-work order after the government failed to reach a deal with unions in talks on Monday. The decision marks the first time a South Korean administration has issued an order to force striking transport workers back to their jobs.
Failure to comply can lead to punishments such as cancellation of licences and three years in jail, or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).
Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong earlier said the order, if approved, would be executed without delay.
The strike — the second in less than six months by truckers demanding minimum pay — is disrupting industrial activity at a time when Asia’s fourth-largest economy expects a slump in growth to 1.7 percent next year.
Before the government’s announcement, strike organiser Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU) called the start-work order “undemocratic and anti-constitutional”, and evidence of the government’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue.
“The CTSU will not yield to this pan-government crackdown,” the union said in a statement late Monday.
The union plans to hold 16 rallies nationwide on Tuesday, it added.
The government is unwilling to expand a minimum pay system beyond a further three years, while the union says it should be permanent and wider in scope.