Corea, República de - Samsung suicides and new union (2012)

In January, two Samsung Electronics workers threw themselves off a dormitory building in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, less than two weeks apart. Both workers had taken long term sick leave. Despite calls from the family members for more information about what may have caused the suicides, the Ministry of Employment and Labour (MOEL) notified them of a decision not to disclose Samsung Electronics’ employment regulations, explaining that they were Samsung’s “trade secrets.” Groups that have battled Samsung Electronics over occupational leukaemia cases designated the third week of March as “memorial week for workers who have died from semiconductor and electronics industry accidents.” In September, another worker committed suicide.

In July, a trade union made up of four Samsung Everland employees filed an establishment notice, becoming the Samsung Group’s first union led by workplace employees – only made possible after the new rules on union establishment went into force in 2011. There were nine unions at Samsung Group affiliates but all were reportedly “pro-company” unions or inactive “ghost unions” and had previously effectively prevented the establishment of democratic unions at the company under the old single union system. Previously, the company had taken advantage of the provisions prohibiting multiple trade unions to block the formation of member-led “democratic unions.” It is also claimed that the management use incentives, intimidation tactics, and even abduction against employees who attempted to establish unions.

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