28,000 Samsung Employees in South Korea Are Preparing to Strike for the First Time in the Company's History

  • Samsung has never faced a union strike in its 55-year history.

  • The workers are demanding higher wages and an extra paid day off.

28,000 Samsung employees in South Korea are preparing to strike
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Samsung is experiencing a moment of maximum strategic tension, which has forced its board of directors to work overtime to solve the company’s challenges.

On one hand, there’s the eternal battle in the cell phone market, with the usual pressure from Apple and Chinese manufacturers. On the other, Samsung is facing a fierce battle in semiconductor manufacturing, where it's losing ground under pressure from Taiwan's TSMC. Amid all this turmoil, Reuters reports that its employees are calling the company’s first strike in its history.

The first strike. In Samsung’s more than 55 years as a company, its employees had never called a strike. This is unsurprising given that the company enforced a harsh anti-union policy among its workforces. But according to Fast Company, in the last two years, Samsung relaxed this policy and allowed its employees to join unions.

As such, the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) has become the most important group in the company. With 28,000 employees in South Korea, this union represents one-fifth of the company’s total workforce. The NSEU is calling for the company’s first labor strike on June 7.

Why are Samsung employees going on strike? The unionists are striking for higher wages, an additional day of annual leave, and more transparent performance-based bonuses. “We are demanding transparent and fair performance bonuses and wage increases,” Son Woomok, one of the union leaders, told CNN.

The employees state that they've never had proper wage negotiations, as the company has imposed salary increases unilaterally.

Insufficient wage increases and more negotiations. In recent weeks, Samsung and the NSEU have been negotiating a 5.1% wage increase, a percentage that the union considers insufficient. The union has called the strike in an effort to increase pressure on Samsung so that it'll come to the table and negotiate its demands.

It’s the first strike but not the first protest. Although the call for the strike is unprecedented at the company, the union has already staged several internal protests over the past few months. Shouting “respect for labor,” the company’s employees have held protests around Samsung’s headquarters in Seoul’s Gangnam business district. “Our demonstrations are not violent, but we can show our strength,” Samsung chip engineer Choi Young-wook said. Meanwhile, Samsung has declared its commitment to dialogue with the union.

Image | Samsung

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