Samsung Electronics signs its first collective bargaining agreement

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Samsung Electronics signs its first collective bargaining agreement

Representatives of Samsung Electronics and labor unions pose for photos after signing the company's first-ever collective agreement on Thursday at Yongin, Gyeonggi. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]

Representatives of Samsung Electronics and labor unions pose for photos after signing the company's first-ever collective agreement on Thursday at Yongin, Gyeonggi. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]

Samsung Electronics reached a collective bargaining agreement with labor unions for the first time in its 52-year history.  

The company, the largest in Korea, said Thursday that it had signed the agreement with a group of unions including the Samsung Electronics Office Workers’ Labor Union, Samsung Electronics U.S. Labor Union, Samsung Electronics Labor Union and National Samsung Electronics Labor Union.

An agreement ceremony was held at the Kiheung Campus of Samsung Electronics in Yongin, Gyeonggi, at 3 p.m. Present at the ceremony were Samsung Electronics President and CEO Kim Hyun-suk and Choi Wan-woo, executive vice president and head of the Device Solution HR team at Samsung Electronics. They were joined by leaders of four labor unions and Kim Man-jae, president of the Federation of Korean Metalworkers’ Trade Unions.

The two parties agreed on 95 items. They include paying full-time sitting union members their full salary while working extra hours for the union, guaranteeing union activities, establishing rules on managing industrial accidents and improving current human resources policies.

The company and the unions have held 30 meetings since last November and came to their first tentative agreement on July 30.

“Today is a very meaningful day when Samsung Electronics signs its first collective agreement,” said Kim of Samsung Electronics. “We hope labor and management will step forward into a constructive future together through sincere communication and cooperation."

“In the eyes of constitution, which guarantees the right of association, the right of collective bargaining and right of collective action, Samsung Electronics has finally become a normal company,” said an industry insider who wished to remain anonymous.

In May, Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong apologized for Samsung's history of preventing labor organization.

“Samsung will never be called non-union from now on,” Lee said. “We will strictly comply with labor laws and ensure the three rights of labor.”

Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull declared that “there will be no labor union even if you throw dirt in my eyes."  
The company’s key managers invited experts on labor issues to change the company’s attitude towards unions. Samsung Electronics also declared for the first time that labor unions and a joint labor-management conference would be the communicative channel between employees and the company in a management report published earlier this year.

Despite the agreement’s significance, major growing pains are expected. The company has no experience in dealing with labor unions.

According to the Samsung Solidarity, a coalition of 10 labor unions within the Samsung Group, Samsung has been accused of disrupting labor union activities. Samsung Display neglected placards hung outside of Samsung Display intended to mock the labor union and did not fully participate in the collective agreement meetings, according to the union.

“Samsung companies have been ignoring the constant demand from labor unions to come to the bargaining table for salaries,” said the Federation of Korean Trade Unions in a statement on Aug. 9. “They have been ignoring the request until now, and they are trying to appease the unions with small things when there’s a big issue in the company, such as Lee Jae-yong being released on parole.”

Lee will be released on parole on Friday and placed under probation.  
“Samsung’s labor-management culture has not followed the change in time,” Lee said. “We will endeavor to bring about a new culture built on the harmony and coexistence of labor and management.”


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