Samsung service workers form landmark labor union

Posted on : 2013-07-15 15:03 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
In non-union company, service workers organize for better treatment, full-time positions
 July 14. (by Kim Jeong-hyo
July 14. (by Kim Jeong-hyo

By Jeon Jong-hwi, staff reporter and Son Jun-hyun, senior staff writer

On July 14, a labor union was founded by 400 irregular workers with affiliates of Samsung Electronics Service. Samsung is accused of using as many as 10,000 illegally dispatched workers.

While the workers with the union are employees of subcontractors of Samsung, not Samsung itself, this is the largest labor union that has ever been established in connection with the company, which is known for its non-union management.

It is expected that the founding of the union will have a considerable impact on the issue of indirect employment by chaebol, a practice that is rampant in South Korea, especially since the union members are irregular workers. Recently, a battle has been waged in the courts about whether Samsung has to hire such irregular workers as full-time employees.

On this day, 400 members of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union who are also employees of 117 subcontractors for Samsung Electronics Service gathered at Seoul Women’s Plaza in the Dongjak district of the city. They were there to take part in the general meeting for establishing the Samsung Electronics Service union.

“Samsung Electronics Service has accomplished the incredible feat of being first in the product quality index for 12 years in a row, but the workers at its subcontractors have been treated horribly,” said Wi Yeong-il, president of the Samsung Electronics Service chapter in his address. “Through the labor union, we will ask Samsung Electronics Service for all of the rights that are guaranteed by labor law, and we will fight for those rights.”

Samsung Electronics Service is an affiliate of Samsung Electronics. The workers there inspect and repair the refrigerators, washing machines, and computers manufactured by Samsung Electronics. Samsung is accused of using 10,000 workers who were illegally dispatched by its subcontractors, though it claims there are only 6,000 such workers.

 staff photographer)
staff photographer)

The establishment of this union is attracting attention both because it is a legally-established labor union connected with the Samsung Group and because of the large number of members.

There have been labor unions the Samsung Group before this, including the Samsung General Labor Union, which is open to employees of all Samsung affiliates, and labor unions at Everland and Samsung Life Insurance, but Samsung has suppressed the unions and kept their members from doing much.

This new union is receiving even more attention in labor circles because it is largely composed of dispatched workers. Such workers have made up a large portion of irregular workers in the 2000s.

“The establishment of the labor union today will go down in the history of Korean labor unions,” said Lee Nam-shin, director of the Korean Contingent Workers’ Center. “It will serve as a touchstone for solving the problem of indirect employment in South Korean society.”

“This is an impressive development, since irregular workers who had been kept down like slaves have gotten to their feet and overcome resistance to gather here,” Lee said.

On July 11, Samsung General Labor Union was summarily ordered by a court to pay a fine of 300,000 won (US$276). The union, which was declared to be an illegal union as soon as it was established in 2003 because it allowed terminated employees to become members, had been sued by Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance for “illegally using the name of a labor union.” Kim Sung-hwan, chairman of the union, said that they are “planning to request a formal trial.”


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