Thousands of Samsung workers strike for better pay and conditions

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As announced last week, the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) launched a three-day general strike on Monday. Thousands of employees halted work on Monday and continued the strike on Tuesday, the Korean media reports. The union representing around 30,000 Samsung workers is demanding better pay and improved working conditions.

Samsung faces its biggest labor action ever

For years, Samsung didn’t allow workers to form unions. However, over the past decade, it has significantly changed its stance on unionized labor, leading to the formation of several such unions. With over 24% of the Korean conglomerate’s domestic workforce (11% of its global workforce) in its roster, the NSEU is the biggest Samsung union.

Over the past few months, the NSEU has been pressurizing the company to improve its performance-based pay and bonuses. It has also asked for an extra day of annual leave for workers. However, Samsung’s leadership didn’t approve the requests. The two parties have been locked in negotiations since January this year. The firm reportedly offered a 5.1% pay hike, but the union isn’t satisfied.

In protest, the NSEU organized a one-day walkout in June. Workers walked out of their duties using an annual leave. It was the first such collective labor action against Samsung. However, it seemingly didn’t make the company’s leadership flinch. The Korean firm still failed to offer satisfactory concessions. The union has now responded with a three-day general strike beginning Monday.

The NSEU said more than 6,000 members expressed intention to participate in the strike. However, according to a Yonhap News report, the Korean police estimated around 3,000 people at the kick-off rally on Monday. The report didn’t specify if more people joined the strike later that day or on Tuesday. Samsung, meanwhile, said the labor action didn’t affect its production in the first two days.

The union has warned of a five-day strike if Samsung still ignored its demands

This three-day strike is the biggest labor action Samsung has faced in its decades-long history. While it may not have hampered the company’s business, the troubles seem far from end. If it doesn’t offer satisfactory concessions to the NSEU, it may face a bigger action. Depending on the outcome of the ongoing strike, the union plans to organize a five-day general strike starting on July 15.

These labor actions come at a time when Samsung is dealing with various other adversaries. The firm is losing its grip on the smartphone market, while the foundry division is struggling to catch up to TSMC. Thankfully, the memory chip market has recovered, helping it improve its profits in the first half of 2024. Samsung is now hoping to get Nvidia’s approval for its HBM3E chips, so it could benefit more from the AI boom. The company will launch new foldables, watches, and earbuds on July 10.

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