Samsung Electronics union threatens first-ever strike, impact unclear


Seoul-Samsung Electronics members threatened to go on an unprecedented strike against tech giants if their demands for higher wages and better working conditions were not met.

After the government’s arbitration broke earlier this week, union representatives held a rally on Wednesday near Samsung’s headquarters in Midtown, Seoul. They want to close the wage gap between employees, take more paid leave and get better health insurance.

“There are many options, one of which is a strike,” said Kim Han-yul, one of the four unions representing Samsung Electronics workers.

“We will continue to fight to ensure wage and collective bargaining with all unions of Samsung Electronics, not just Samsung Electronics.”

Union officials called for a face-to-face meeting with top management, the flagship chip maker of the vast conglomerate and the world’s top smartphone maker.

The largest of the four unions, the National Samsung Electronics Union, has about 4,500 members, about 4% of the 114,373 employees in the country, so the potential impact on the company’s business is clear. There is none.

Members are also wary of hostility to the public during times of growing dissatisfaction with working conditions and injustice.

“I don’t want a strike on the chipline. If I want to stop the public enemy chipline,” said another union officer, Lee Hyun-kuk.

The union refused to comment on how many of its members were in the tip department.

“The company continues to talk to the union and makes every sincere effort to reach an agreement,” Samsung Electronics said in a statement.

Founded in 1969, the company avoided unionization until the end of the 2010s. Since then, its leader, Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, has promised to “establish a healthy labor-management culture.”

“Korea’s culture and economic situation have changed,” said Taeyun Sung, a professor of economics at Yonsei University. “Samsung Electronics, which was previously unaffected by union activity, must consider the union as a partner, but the negative view of the strong labor reaction may make the union difficult to attack.”

Joyce Lee

Reuters

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