Samsung Electronics union declares plans for first-ever strike

Members of the Nationwide Samsung Electronics Union chant slogans during a press conference in front of the company's building in Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap

The largest union among several Samsung Electronics’ labor groups declared plans, Wednesday, for collective action, including the first-ever strike in the company’s 55-year history.The plan, however, is causing an internal feud among employees over the intention behind the move, according to company and union officials.Following unsuccessful wage negotiations with Samsung Electronics’ management the previous day, the Nationwide Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) issued a threat, stating that its 28,000 members will collectively utilize their annual paid leave on June 7 as the initial step in their collective action.The union also vowed to stage a sit-in protest in front of the company’s building in southern Seoul for an indefinite duration, emphasizing that they might escalate to a full-fledged walkout if their demands are not addressed.

“We are declaring a strike due to the management’s attitude of disregarding the workers,” the NSEU said.After the union’s announcement, Samsung Electronics’ stock price plunged 3.09 percent from the previous session to close at 75,200 won ($55).“We have no comment on this issue at this moment,” a Samsung Electronics spokesman said.The date of the planned collective action is June 7, the Friday that falls the day after the June 6 Memorial Day holiday. Most major conglomerates here plan to ask their employees to take their annual leave on that day, to save costs for monetary compensation for remaining holidays.

Some employees of Samsung Electronics therefore questioned the effectiveness of their coordinated use of annual leave.“It may appear to be a passive walkout, but we are taking it one step at a time,” an NSEU spokesperson said. “We may go on a general strike.”Another union comprised of the employees of Samsung’s five affiliates regarded the NSEU’s declaration to strike as a preliminary step to shift to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) from the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU). Among the two umbrella unions, the KCTU is considered to be more militant and political than the FKTU.

“The purpose of the strike looks uncertain, as it seems to be intended to join the KCTU, instead of improving working conditions,” the Samsung Group United Union (SGUU), another of the company’s multiple labor groups, said.Although the NSEU falls under the FKTU, 200 KCTU members were invited to a concert-like rally that the Samsung union held last Friday, which featured performances by entertainers. Some Samsung Electronics employees complained about using their union membership fees to hire entertainers.The SGUU also criticized the NSEU on Tuesday for damaging Samsung’s brand value and defaming other unions.

“The NSEU should focus more on wage talks for Samsung employees,” the SGUU said.The NSEU has called for a 6 percent hike in wages and an additional day of paid leave. In March, Samsung Electronics’ labor-management council decided to increase salaries this year by 5.1 percent, nearly two times more than the rate of consumer price growth.In 2023, Samsung Electronics suffered 15 trillion won in operating losses at its semiconductor business.In a bid to overcome the crisis, the company replaced the head of its semiconductor business last week. It also recently asked its executives to work six days a week and ordered high-ranking officials at the networks business division to fly economy during their business 추천 trips.

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