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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Largest union of Samsung Electronics to strike next Friday

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Samsung Electronics’ largest union said Wednesday that it will start striking next week over demands for higher wages, with the first nationwide walkout since the company’s founding.

Leaders from the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU), whose membership of around 28,400 members constitutes 22 percent of the company’s total workforce, announced the organization’s plans to take collective action on June 7 in a livestreamed press conference.

“We can’t stand persecution against labor unions anymore. We are declaring a strike in the face of the company’s neglect of laborers,” a union spokesperson told reporters.
Representatives from Samsung Electronics’ largest labor union, the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU), said unionized workers will start taking strike action next week over demands for higher wages, performance-based bonuses and an additional day of annual leave at a press conference in front of Samsung’s building in Seocho District, southern Seoul on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

The union said workers will collectively take the day off next Friday. It says all company sites across Korea will be affected, adding that it will carry out additional protest measures that may turn into a full-scale strike until an agreement is reached.

The group has been in talks with management since the start of this year over wages, holidays and bonuses, demanding a 6.5 percent pay rise this year, instead of the company’s proposed 5.1 percent, as well as an additional day of annual leave and transparent performance-based bonuses.

The union said it was granted the legal right to strike after multiple wage negotiations fell through. The press conference was held a day after a meeting with management on Tuesday, coming three months since the last round of negotiations.

Workers have been intermittently participating in protests from April outside the company’s offices in Seoul as well as its chip production site in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi. More than 2,000 unionized workers gathered in Seoul last week for a rally to demand better wages and more holidays.

The NSEU defended its decision to stage a walkout at a time when Samsung’s key businesses, such as its semiconductor unit, is struggling. A rare midyear corporate leadership reshuffle was announced earlier this month, with a new chief appointed to head its semiconductor division as the chipmaker strives to beat rival SK hynix in the high bandwidth memory (HBM) segment.

“The company has been saying they’re in crisis for the past 10 years,” a union figure told reporters. “They say the HBM section is in crisis but people feel like they are not being compensated for the work they do, which lowers morale. The company calls it a ‘union risk’ but we believe there is a problem with management.”

Samsung Electronics, a major appliance and consumer electronics manufacturer, is Samsung Group’s flagship unit. The group was known for not allowing unions to represent its workers until 2020, when the company pledged to end its practice of discouraging union activity following public backlash after its chairman was prosecuted for market manipulation and bribery.

Employees from the semiconductor division who did not receive performance-based bonuses last year made a notable addition to the union’s membership this year.

The market bellwether’s stock dropped 3.09 percent to finish at 75,200 won as Wednesday’s market closed.

BY KIM JU-YEON [kim.juyeon2@joongang.co.kr]