Outsourcing death

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Outsourcing death

An air conditioner repairman hired by Samsung Electronics’ after-sales service center in Seongbuk-gu, northern Seoul, fell to his death while trying to fix an outside unit at a residential villa in Wolgye-dong on Thursday. The 42-year-old mechanic did not wear a safety helmet while clinging to the outside wall.

The accident is more the result of contract workers’ poor working conditions than the mechanic’s lack of precaution. He worked for an outsourced subcontractor, receiving a base salary of 1.3 million won ($1,109) to do more than 60 repairs a month. He would receive extra for any work done beyond the quota. The more he worked, the more he earned. Contracted repairmen are also under pressure to comply with consumer complaints as soon as possible, especially during the summer peak.

His story resembles that of the 19-year-old mechanic who was hit by an arriving train while trying to fix the platform door in a subway station while living off a pitiful monthly pay of 1.44 million won. The electronics repairman worked 14 hours a day without having time to eat his packed lunch. Even as he was in the hospital in a critical state, his phone received messages demanding him at to make repairs.

The Industrial Safety and Welfare Act requires workers to have the necessary safety protection when working in an area where there is a danger of falling. But outsourced workers cannot afford to keep to safety regulations. Outsourcing is a dangerous line of work that has been breeding casualties. There will be no safe zone in industrial accidents if cost and speed are prized over safety. Another air conditioner repairman died in Ansan in Gyeonggi Province just last July.

Dangerous and dirty work must not be dumped into the hands of outsourced staff simply because they can be hired at a lower cost. The National Assembly must hurry the passage of a bill to ban outsourcing fatal risks to contractors.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 27, Page 30
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