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The Korea Herald
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THE INVESTOR
July 22, 2024

Industrials

Samsung Electronics union declares first-ever strike

  • PUBLISHED :May 29, 2024 - 16:41
  • UPDATED :May 29, 2024 - 16:41
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The Nationwide Samsung Electronics Union, the largest among the Samsung Electronics' multiple unions, on Wednesday vows to stage strike for 1st time over stalled wage negotiations. (Yonhap)

Unionized workers of Samsung Electronics said Wednesday that they will go on strike on June 7 after failed wage talks with the management -- the first-ever strike in the tech giant’s five decades of history.

"We can’t stand persecution against labor unions anymore. We declare a strike due to the management's attitude of disregarding the workers," the Nationwide Samsung Electronics Union, the largest among the tech giant's multiple unions, said in a press briefing held in front of Samsung’s Seocho office in southern Seoul earlier in the day.

They held a banner that read: “We can no longer tolerate labor repression, union repression.”

The union, which has about 28,000 members, accounting for nearly 22 percent of the company's total workforce, said it will stop work for one day on June 7 as part of broader protest measures.

If the union members collectively walk off the job on one day next week, it will mark the first-ever strike by Samsung Electronics workers.

Additionally, an overnight sit-in protest in a bus is planned for in front of the Seocho office building starting Wednesday.

“It might be seen as a passive strike, but we will take it step by step. ... It may lead to a general strike, or the strike could fail, but the first strike action itself is meaningful,” the union said.

The union secured the right to strike through the National Labor Relations Commissions decision to suspend mediation and a vote by union members. In the vote in which five Samsung Electronics unions participated, 74 percent of all union members supported industrial action.

The decision came as they believe that the management does not have a strong will to negotiate as they failed to narrow their gap in wage talks and collective negotiation since January.

The union has demanded a 6.5 percent pay rise and a bonus pegged to the company’s earnings. Unable to reach an agreement with the union, the management set this year's average wage increase rate at 5.1 percent through the labor-management council and paid salaries to employees last month.

According to industry sources, the unionists held an eighth round of negotiation over wages and collective bargaining agreements a day earlier with the tech giant’s management at the company’s Giheung plant.

Despite previous efforts during practical wage negotiations last week, where the unionized workers expressed a willingness to resolve, the current negotiations have stalled due to disagreements between the company and the labor union over the participation of two company negotiators.

The union requested the exclusion of the two company negotiators but the management refused, resulting in a breakdown of negotiations. As of now, neither side has set a future negotiation schedule.

The unionist defended the decision to take industrial action at a time when some parts of Samsung's business were underperforming.

"The company has been saying they are facing crisis all along for the past decade," a union official said, adding that the firm should not use it as an excuse not to meet its demands.

Last year, Samsung recorded a deficit of 14.88 trillion won ($10.91 billion) in the chip business due to the slump in the semiconductor industry.

The union said all company sites across Korea would be affected by its strike action next month.

Samsung last week replaced the head of its semiconductor unit saying a new person at the top was needed to navigate what it called a "crisis" affecting the chip industry.

More than 2,000 unionized workers of the Korean tech giant gathered in Seoul last week to hold a rare rally to demand better wages.

Meanwhile, as the breakdown in negotiations between Samsung Electronics' labor and management continues, Samsung Group United Union, which encompasses the labor unions of five Samsung affiliates, has expressed its position criticizing the NSEU, and an atmosphere of spreading inter-labor conflict can be sensed.

Speculation is also growing that the NSEU may be trying to shift to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions from the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, as 200 KCTU members were invited to the rally on Friday. The KCTU is considered more militant and political than the FKTU.

Following, the first-ever strike announcement, shares of Samsung lost more than 3 percent on Wednesday. The shares traded at 75,200 won, down 3.09 percent from the previous day’s closing price.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)

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