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worker exploitation

Behind the Samsung Galaxy: union busting and worker exploitation

Samsung’s new Galaxy 8 smart phone is produced by an exploited and harassed workforce, according to an international trade union investigation into the company’s aggressive anti-union employment practices.  

The makers of Apple’s i-Phone, Foxconn, have long been notorious for the appalling conditions that workers experience in its “factory cities’ in China. But Samsung has received relatively less international attention. 

Now a report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has revealed how Samsung uses a combination of bribes, threats, bullying, dismissal and even kidnapping to keep its employees, and people working for its suppliers, under total control. 

According to the report, 200 Samsung workers have fallen ill with leukemia, lymphoma and other occupational diseases, yet Samsung refused to give details of the chemicals used in production until a district court ruled against the company’s secrecy policy earlier this year.  76 of the workers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, have died.

A case brought before the International Labor Organisation (ILO), brought by the ITUC and other international and Korean trade unions, accuses the company of systematic surveillance and intimidation of workers, dismissal of union members, severing contracts with unionised suppliers, non-compliance with agreements, fictional contracting arrangements, and instructions to managers to violate labour laws.

The case also describes the lengths that Samsung goes to in its union-busting activities.  It documents the case of a worker at Samsung’s Ulsan service centre who was actually kidnapped by managers. The worker was made to get into a car and driven to an island tens of kilometres away, where his mobile phone was confiscated.  Locked in a room, he was told that he would not escape the island unless he withdrew from the union!

Samsung’s Galaxy 8 may not blow up or catch fire. But it is produced in conditions that are every bit as hazardous to its employees as the 7 was to end customers – a fact to be remembered when considering the new model.

Source: Union Network International.

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