Samsung Electronics workers announce ‘indefinite’ strike

Unionised workers at Samsung Electronics have declared an indefinite strike to pressurise South Korea’s biggest company into accepting their calls for higher pay and other benefits.

Thousands of members of the National Samsung Electronics Union launched a temporary, three-day strike on Monday, but the union said on Wednesday that it was announcing an indefinite strike, accusing the management of being unwilling to negotiate.

Samsung Electronics said there has been no disruptions to production.

South Korea Samsung Strikes
Members of the National Samsung Electronics Union shout slogans during a rally outside the company’s campus in Hwaseong, South Korea (Hong Ki-won/Yonhap/AP)

However, in a statement posted on its website, the union said it has engaged in unspecified disruptions on the company’s production lines to get management to eventually come to the negotiating table if the strikes continue.

“We are confident of our victory,” the union statement said.

The union statement did not say how many of its members would join the extended strike. Earlier, it said 6,540 of its members had said they would participate in the previous three-day strike.

That would represent only a fraction of Samsung Electronics’ total workforce, estimated at about 267,860 globally. Some 120,000 of them are in South Korea.

Earlier this year, union members and management held rounds of talks on the union’s demand for higher wages and better working conditions, but they failed to reach agreement.

In June, some union members collectively used their annual leave in a one-day walkout that observers said was the first labour strike at Samsung Electronics.

South Korea Samsung Strikes
Members of the National Samsung Electronics Union rally in Hwaseong, South Korea, to call for higher pay and other benefits (Hong Ki-won/Yonhap/AP)

In 2020, Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong, then vice chairman of the company, said he would stop suppressing employee attempts to organise unions, as he expressed remorse over his alleged involvement in a massive 2016 corruption scandal that removed the country’s president from office.

The company’s union-busting practices had been criticised by activists for decades, though industrial action at other businesses and in other sectors of the society are common in South Korea.

Thousands of South Korean medical interns and residents have been on strike since February, protesting over a government plan to sharply increase medical school admissions.

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