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Samsung employees set to go on first-ever strike

By Kim Ji-woo & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea
Samsung Electronics' unionized workers may go on strike for the first time if the arbitration of the country’s government agency falls apart. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics
Samsung Electronics' unionized workers may go on strike for the first time if the arbitration of the country’s government agency falls apart. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The unionized workers of Samsung Electronics are set to go on a strike for the first time since the tech giant was established in 1969.

Its first trade union was formed in 2018.

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The National Samsung Electronics Labor Union, the biggest out of Samsung's four trade unions, filed an arbitration to the National Labor Relations Commission on Friday.

As a result, Samsung Electronics is required to reach a wage agreement with the four trade unions within 10 days. Otherwise, unionists are entitled to walk out.

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"We have gone through 15 rounds of talks in six months. But the management delayed the negotiations in a deceitful manner," the NSEU said in a statement. "We have filed an arbitration, as the talks are not likely to proceed any longer."

Under the umbrella of the Federation of Korean Metalworkers' Trade Union, the NSEU is composed of around 4,800 workers, about 4% of total Samsung employees.

Their collective action is feared to negatively affect the operation of Samsung Electronics, the world's largest memory chip maker, during a shortage.

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The NSEU and other Samsung unions have initially requested a salary raise of $8,300 for all the workers, as well as a yearly bonus amounting to 25% of the company's operating profit.

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As Samsung Electronics earned $43 billion in operating income last year, the unionists' demand is to receive more than $10 billion in total.

"What we're really asking for is that the company set a rule for the performance bonus. At present, we're not demanding 25% of the operating profit," NSEU Secretary-General Son Woo-mok told UPI News Korea.

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"One of our key complaints is that our vacations are way too short. But the management refuses to consider that. It's one of the main issues," he added.

Observers said Samsung Electronics would not be able to give a big chunk of its operating profit to employees as annual bonuses.

"I don't think that the Samsung union workers would walk out. They appear to be pressuring the management to make further concessions," Seoul-based business tracker Leaders Index CEO Park Ju-gun said in a telephone interview.

"As Samsung Electronics' profit is way too high, it would be improbable to give out 25%, or more than $10 billion, to employees," he said.

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