Thousands of Samsung workers launch indefinite strike over pay

July 10, 2024
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Unionized workers at Samsung Electronics in South Korea have indefinitely extended the first-ever strike at the company in a push for better pay and benefits. The National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) rallied its over 30,000 members on Wednesday after the company’s leadership showed no indication of holding talks with the union following a three-day walkout.

As reported by Reuters, the NSEU is demanding a 3.5 percent increase in base salary, an extra day off to mark the union’s foundation day, and a fairer bonus system between executives and lower-ranking workers. Samsung, the world’s largest maker of memory chips, announced an estimated 15x increase in operating profits for its latest quarter, following a spike in semiconductor prices driven by the ongoing AI boom.

The NSEU said its objective is to halt Samsung’s chip production, telling Reuters the strike had already slowed production on certain chip lines. Samsung refutes this, however, saying the three-day walkout hadn’t impacted chip production. “Samsung Electronics will ensure no disruptions occur in the production lines,” the company said in a statement to Reuters, adding that it “remains committed to engaging in good faith negotiations with the union.”

Union officials said that 6,500 workers had participated in the initial three-day strike that began on Monday, and encouraged its remaining members — who make up almost a quarter of Samsung Electronics South Korean workforce — to join the walkout. “It is time that we need power and help from our fellow members,” NSEU vice president Son Woo-mok said in a YouTube live broadcast. “All members who participated in the first strike [should] continue to strike.”

The walkout follows a major slump in Samsung’s profits in 2023, attributed to weakened demand for memory chips. Anything that could jeopardize the company’s recent rebound gives it enough cause for concern, but given Samsung is responsible for around 20 percent of South Korea’s entire GDP, the entire country could potentially feel its impact.

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