Samsung Workers Begin Three-Day Strike Over Pay

By Nurat Uthman

Workers at South Korean tech giant Samsung began a three-day general strike over pay and benefits on Monday, the head of a union representing tens of thousands of employees told AFP, warning the action could impact memory chip production.

Samsung Electronics is the world’s largest memory chip maker and accounts for a significant chunk of the global output of high-end chips.

Wearing rain jackets and ribbons saying “fight with solidarity”, thousands of workers gathered outside the company’s foundry and semiconductor factory in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, an hour south of Seoul.

Samsung management has been locked in negotiations with the union since January, with the two sides failing to narrow differences on benefits and a rejected 5.1 per cent pay raise offer from the firm.

“The strike has started from today,” Son Woo-mok, head of the National Samsung Electronics Union, told AFP.

“Today’s general strike is just the beginning,” he added.

“Recalling why we are here, please do not come to work until July 10th and do not receive any business calls,” he told the crowd of workers

The union said about 5,200 people from factory facilities, manufacturing and development had joined the protest.

“Do they still not think this will affect their production line?” said Lee Hyun-kuk, vice president of the union.

The union, which has more than 30,000 members, or more than a fifth of the company’s total workforce, announced the three-day general strike last week, saying it was a last resort after talks broke down.

The move follows a one-day walkout in June, the first such collective action at the company, which went decades without unionisation.

“We are now at a critical crossroads,” the union said in an appeal sent out to members last week, urging them to support the strike.

“This strike is the last card we can use,” it said, saying that workers at the company needed to “act as one”.

“I’m really excited,” one union member and protester told AFP. “We’re making history.”

Workers rejected the offer of a 5.1 per cent pay hike in March, with the union having previously outlined demands including improvements to annual leave and transparent performance-based bonuses.

Samsung declined a request for comment.

“While the ongoing strike is only scheduled for three days, the participating members include those working in chip assembly lines,” business professor Kim Dae-jong at Sejong University told AFP.

“Given that the union could carry out additional strikes in case the gridlock continues, it could pose a great risk to Samsung management amid its race for dominance in the competitive chips market.”

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