Tower crane operators belonging to the Korean Construction Workers Union shouted slogans to announce their general strike during a press conference outside Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The unionized tower crane operators started a nationwide general strike on Tuesday for safety reasons, which put almost 90 percent of domestic construction sites at risk.

The operators of the Korean Construction Workers Union (KCWU) went on strike, accusing the government of failing to take adequate measures to protect citizens and construction workers, despite a recent spate of tower crane accidents.

The KCWU, affiliated with the militant Korean trade union federation, said the Department of Land, Infrastructure and Transport canceled registrations or ordered recalls for 369 small tower cranes of 12 types for violating safety standards, but they are still being used on construction sites.

“The general strike was called to protect the safety of citizens and the lives of construction workers,” the KCWU said at a press conference in front of the Cheong Wa Dae presidential office.

The union estimates that around 90 percent of construction projects in the country could be affected by its general strike, and notes that there are around 3,000 to 4,000 tower cranes on construction sites across the country.

The union said it had negotiated security measures and wage increases with individual companies but failed to reach an agreement. 83.1 percent of the members supported the general strike in a vote on Monday.

In February, the State Department canceled the registration of 120 tower cranes of three types for violating safety standards and ordered a recall of 249 tower cranes of nine types.

Despite these actions, however, there have been at least eight small tower crane accidents nationwide in a two month period since April 24, the union passed, and added five problematic tower cranes – three with canceled registrations and two with recall orders involved in the accidents. In the accidents, a worker was killed and three others injured, it said. (Yonhap)