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Unregistered Samsung labor union plans Europe tour

Samsung General Labor Union plans to launch a 17-day tour through Europe in December as part of its campaign to condemn what they see as Samsung Group’s crackdown on labor unions.

Kim Seong-hwan, head of Samsung General Labor Union, said in a press briefing Wednesday that the Euro tour aims to raise awareness around the world of Samsung Group’s unethical business practices, anti-union policy and human rights violation.

The legally unauthorized union, along with volunteers, plan to stage rallies in front of Samsung Group’s factories and stores across Europe and partner with left-wing civic groups there to seek to put international pressure on the multinational firm.

“We need to let the world know (about) Samsung Group’s crackdown on labor unions. Samsung has exerted significant influence over the nation’s politics, economy and media with its money,” the organization said in a press release. “Without solving such a problem, there is no true democracy for the Korean society.”
Samsung General Labor Union
Samsung General Labor Union

Samsung Group said that it respects union activities under the laws and regulations of the country. 

"At Samsung, we the matter of protecting and promoting our workers' rights very seriously," an official from the firm said. "
Samsung’s priority will be to continually provide the best working environment to meet the needs and expectations of our employees."

Samsung Group, with 59 affiliates ranging from tech and construction to fashion, is known for its “anti-union” policy, though the company has maintained its workers choose not to join labor unions because they don’t feel the need.

The formerly Incheon-based Samsung General Labor Union received a permit to establish a labor union open to Samsung workers based in Incheon from Incheon Metropolitan Government in 2003. As the union later revised its rules to accept workers laid off by the company, the municipality canceled its authorization.

In 2013, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, one of the affiliates of Samsung Group, filed a complaint against SGLU for using the term “labor union” during anti-Samsung rallies, as it is not actually a legally approved union.

Only two unions -- one of less than 10 workers under Samsung Everland and the other for irregular workers under Samsung Electronics Service -- are legally approved.

Samsung General Labor Union is fighting to gain legal recognition from the court, with the final ruling stalled at the Supreme Court. Lower courts have confirmed the legitimacy of the union.

The union also plans to address issues surrounding alleged dangerous working conditions for factory workers at Samsung Group and its subcontractors.

With no exact figures available, Banolim, an advocacy group representing victims of alleged workplace illness, claims there are 223 victims of diseases that appear related to hazardous conditions at Samsung’s factories. Among them, 76 had died as of July. 

Despite Samsung Electronics’ official apology, some of the victims and their families have criticized the company for pushing for a unilateral compensation scheme.

Since late January, four workers belonging to Samsung Electronics’ mobile parts suppliers allegedly suffered loss of vision and brain damage due to methanol. The firm has denied responsibility.

The tour is scheduled for Dec. 2-18 around France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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