Global reach of Samsung's medieval practices revealed in new report

From South Korea to Mexico, from Vietnam to Hungary, new research reveals how the global reach of Samsung's ruthless pursuit of profits impacts the everyday lives of its workers.

Last month I wrote about how Samsung workers have shed light on the working conditions throughout the multinational's supply chains. Today the International Trade Union Confederation and IndustriALL global union have released a new report, Samsung - Modern Tech Medieval Conditions.

It can be difficult reading.

What's shocking is the litany of scandal in every country where it has operated around the world, including: Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, US and Vietnam.

From denying justice to the families of former employees who died from cancers that were caused by unsafe workplaces, to dodging tax and engaging in price-fixing cartels, one thing is constant: Samsung's corporate culture is ruthlessly geared towards maximising profit to the detriment of the everyday lives of its workers.

Beginning with Samsung, we have begun to expose corporate greed and the failure of the world's biggest corporations to account for abuse in their supply chains - from union busting, poverty wages, insecure and unsafe work, to forced overtime, informal work and modern slavery.

It doesn't end here: we will engage with pension funds managing workers' capital regarding investment strategies.

We will end corporate greed.

Korea - Causing cancer, attempting cover-ups

Worker safety groups have documented more than 200 cases of serious illnesses including leukaemia, lupus, lymphoma, multiple sclerosis and brain tumours among former Samsung semiconductor and LCD workers. Seventy-six have died, most in their 20s and 30s.

In August 2016, an investigation revealed South Korean authorities repeatedly withheld crucial information about chemicals workers were exposed to at Samsung factories, after the company requested them not to reveal "trade secrets".

Brazil - Dangerous workplaces

The Brazilian labour ministry filed a lawsuit against Samsung in 2013, alleging dangerous and precarious working conditions imposed on its 6,000 employees at a manufacturing facility.

Prosecutors demanded $108 million compensation and Brazil issued an arrest warrant for Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee after finding the company was harassing and subjecting workers to injuries from intense, long and repetitive work.

Canada - Price-fixing cartel

In 2014 a number of class action lawsuits claimed that a number of electronics' giants including Samsung acted as a cartel to "wring" $480 million in illegal profits from Canadian consumers for almost a decade.

China - Child labour scandal

China Labor Watch reported in 2014 that children were working at a facility in Samsung's supply chain. HEG Electronics employed more than 10 children under the age of 16 at a facility in Guangdong Province. The youngest was 14 years old.

Samsung had faced several previous complaints against suppliers that have allegedly used child labour. Also in 2014 Samsung was forced to sever ties with another supplier after allegations that company was violating child labour regulations.

Europe - Illegally low wages

In December 2013, Samsung was named among a number of companies that employed Hungarian electronics workers on wages too low to support a family. Companies were accused of demanding 72-hour weeks, 12-hour shifts, circumventing overtime payments and having more temporary staff than permanent employees.

India - Exploiting apprentices

A 2013 report revealed about half of the 2500 to 3000-strong assembly line staff at Samsung's India's Noida operations were apprentice workers, who are paid less and have less workplace rights.

"It is very clear that Samsung's strategy to keep labour costs down is based on exploiting the apprentice workers," the report stated. "They are legally engaged only for one year and so they provide lot of space for a flexible workforce; and they are paid a fixed honorarium and not wages."

Indonesia - Union-busting

Indonesian unions reported mass union busting across Samsung's supplier factories in 2013 and 2012, with the company targeting union members and terminating contracts with worksites with union membership.

Across the country unions have reported the criminalisation of trade union activity and workers reporting being beaten and jailed for demonstrating, and some hospitalised with from police dog bites.

Malaysia - 'Modern day slavery'

A 2014 Verite report found nearly a third of some 350,000 workers in Malaysia's electronics industry suffered from conditions of modern-day slavery such as debt bondage.

The report did not name individual employers, however at the time Samsung relied upon its labour-intensive supplier operations in Malaysia.
 
Mexico - Discrimination against women

Human Rights Watch, the International Labor Rights Fund and the Mexican Lawyers' Association filed a complaint in 1997 allegedly widespread discrimination against women who were subject to pregnancy tests and denied employment if positive.

Samsung was named among the offenders through its Mexican operations.

The Philippines - Sacking union members

Management of NXP, the billion-dollar electronics supplier to Samsung, fired 24 union leaders while workers were negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement in 2014. The company then tried to pay off the illegally sacked workers to remove union leadership from the plant.

Samsung's anti-union playbook instructs managers to "isolate employees", "punish leaders" and "induce internal conflicts".

Taiwan - Long days, low wages

Workers at one of Samsung's main suppliers in Taiwan have reported working extremely long days for meagre wage and no overtime pay.

The factories have typically hired foreign workers, including those from mainland China, students from work-study programs and even workers under the age of 16, - all of whom receive less pay than regular employees.

Thailand - Locking out workers

Hundreds of mostly female night shift employees working at Samsung Electronics supplier were forced to leave their Bangkok workplace at midnight before being locked out by management in 2013.

Management of NXP, the billion-dollar electronics supplier to Samsung, gave employees two choices: accept a new work system - which included forced overtime, less pay, no overtime pay for weekend work - or lose their jobs.

United States - Criminal price-fixing

In 2005, Samsung pleaded guilty to participating in conspiracy in the United States, marking the shift of price-fixing into the technological age.

Six senior Samsung executives received prison terms following the case and the company itself was fined US$300 million - the second largest criminal antitrust fine in US history.

Vietnam - Forced overtime

Interviews with Samsung workers in Vietnam revealed overtime being "frequent all year" as employees were asked to work overtime each day, all day Saturday or Sunday or even every day without a day for months at a time.

Managers would often stand in front of the door asking why workers were leaving at the end of their shift. Those without reasonable reasons were told to keep working.

The global pattern of abuse and oppression cannot be ignored. Samsung can't hold on to their secret any longer.

Who Am I ?
tells the story of one union family caught up in Samsung's no union policy which affects the entire Asian electronics industry. They may not be able to show their face, but you can share their story.

By exposing Samsung's secrets, we're taking one more step to end corporate greed.