“Let’s join forces”: Samsung Electronics union declares unlimited general strike

After decades of no unionization at the company, the move could be a landmark. A union representing tens of thousands of workers at South Korean giant Samsung Electronics said Wednesday it would extend a three-day strike “indefinitely” to force management to negotiate. It predicts a “clear disruption to production,” which the company denies.

“(We) declare a second indefinite general strike starting July 10, after learning that management is not willing to discuss following the first general strike,” the national union of Samsung Electronics said in a statement. The company, a flagship subsidiary of Samsung Group, is one of the world’s largest smartphone makers and a rare producer of high-value memory cards used for artificial intelligence.

Management ‘will eventually kneel’, union bets

More than 5,000 workers walked off the job Monday for what was supposed to be a three-day strike after lengthy negotiations over wages and benefits broke down. The move followed a one-day walkout in June, the first such strike at the company that has been union-free for decades. Samsung Electronics’ national union now has more than 30,000 members, more than a fifth of the company’s total workforce.

 

The union has been negotiating with management since January, but the two sides have failed to reach an agreement. Workers rejected an offer of a 5.1% pay rise, while the union is also demanding improved annual leave and transparency on performance-based bonuses.

Samsung told AFP on Wednesday that the strike would not affect production. “Samsung Electronics will ensure that no disruption occurs on the production lines,” a spokesperson told AFP. “The company remains engaged in good faith negotiations with the union.” But the union confirmed that there was “clear disruption to production” and added that the longer the strike lasts, “the more management will suffer.” “They will eventually kneel down and sit at the negotiating table. We are confident of victory,” it added.

Almost 50 years without any union

The union criticized Samsung management for “obstructing” the strike, saying it appeared unwilling to engage in dialogue. “Your determination is needed to advance our goals and our victory. Let’s join forces to protect our rights and create a better future,” it said, calling on employees to join the movement, especially “those who are still hesitant.”

The impact of the strike “depends on a variety of factors, (such as) the length of the strike, the number of production days lost and the strategy for recovering losses,” Neil Shah, vice president of Counterpoint Research, told AFP. He said it is also important to know “how Samsung management prepared for this and has already (anticipated) by simulating solutions to resolve this problem quickly.”

VideoHeadband and black outfits… The impressive strike of Samsung employees in South Korea

Until then, the company had prevented workers from unionizing for nearly 50 years, sometimes using violent methods, according to its critics. The company’s founder, Lee Byung-chul, who died in 1987, was adamantly opposed to unions, saying he would never allow them “until I have dust in my eyes.” Samsung Electronics’ first union was finally formed in the late 2010s.

 

The announcement of the massive strike comes as Samsung Electronics said last week it expects second-quarter operating profit to rise 15-fold from a year earlier on a rebound in chip prices and rising demand for its products used in artificial intelligence. Those chips are South Korea’s biggest export, earning the country $11.7 billion in March, the highest in nearly two years. That’s one-fifth of the country’s total exports.

By Editor

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