Samsung Electronics has its first labor union

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Samsung Electronics has its first labor union

Samsung Electronics, notorious for its anti-union policies, has its first official labor union.

The company confirmed on Friday that the Ministry of Employment and Labor had accepted a request by two employees at the electronics company to form a labor union in February and sent a letter of notification to the company in March.

Eight Samsung affiliates out of a total 62 have unions, but this is the first time the government has recognized a union at the conglomerate’s largest holding, Samsung Electronics.

No details have been revealed so far on how many employees are participating in union activity or who the main target is, but industry sources say the two applicants are old-timers at Samsung Electronics’ sales department who are retiring soon.

The union did not register to be part of an umbrella organization such as the Federation of Korean Trade Unions or Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. The company said it knows about the union but has not heard from them.

“Nowadays, some companies even have multiple labor unions,” a Samsung spokesperson said. “The Labor Ministry notified us, but we only know as much as what has been reported in the media and don’t know about the union’s goals or activities.”

Still, the fact that a labor union exists in the staunchly anti-labor company was enough to make headlines. Even in Samsung affiliates where there are unions, their presence has been weak due to lack of active members.

Samsung has been under mounting pressure to change its labor policies after being accused of sabotaging efforts by workers at affiliates to strengthen their unions.

A slight shift in stance came last month when Samsung Electronics’ after-sales service provider, Samsung Electronics Service, said it would directly hire 8,000 workers from 90 of its contractors amid controversy over its anti-union policies. The company also said in a statement that it would guarantee lawful union activities.

Prosecutors are still investigating allegations of union sabotage at Samsung, though a court has rejected most of their arrest warrant requests, including one for Park Sang-beom, the former head of Samsung Electronics Service who is suspected of leading an organized scheme to hamper labor union activities. Last week, prosecutors raided the headquarters of Samsung Electronics to see if the leadership was involved in any sabotage.

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