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Samsung Workers Stage First-ever Strike Over Pay Dispute In South Korea

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Samsung Protest South Korea
Samsung Staff Protest In South Korea [Credit: Getty Images]

Employees at Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s largest smartphone and high-end semiconductor manufacturers, have staged their first-ever strike.

About 10 of these workers protested in front of Samsung’s major office in Seoul on Friday, chanting, “Respect labour! We do not want a 6.5 per cent raise or a 200 per cent bonus!”

This marks a shift for the South Korean tech giant, which had long resisted unionisation.

The National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU), representing over 28,000 members, coordinated the industrial action, with workers taking paid leave simultaneously on June 7, 2024. The union has been negotiating with Samsung management over wages since January, but the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. The union is demanding better pay, an additional day of annual leave, and transparent performance-based bonuses.

“The first strike at Samsung Electronics is taking place today through the use of paid leave, and it is understood that many employees are participating,” stated Son Woo-mok, head of the NSEU.

He noted a significant reduction in workplace attendance compared to usual days.

Despite the strike, Samsung reported that there was no impact on production. “The paid leave usage rate on June 7 is lower than that of June 5 last year,” the company said in a statement, noting that both dates were part of long holiday weekends.

The strike holds historical significance as Samsung has fiercely resisted unionisation for nearly five decades. Vladimir Tikhonov, a professor of Korean Studies at the University of Oslo, remarked that the action signifies a gradual empowerment of labour in South Korea.

Samsung Electronics, the flagship subsidiary of the Samsung Group, is a critical player in the global market, particularly in producing high-end memory chips used in generative AI and other advanced technologies. During a pre-planned holiday period, the strike involved headquarters employees, not production line workers, minimising its impact on chip production.

Union vice president Lee Hyun-kook emphasised that the strike’s goal was not to disrupt production. “We just want Samsung to hear our voice,” he said.

 

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