First-ever walkout by Samsung employees in South Korea

Thu Jun 06 2024
Julie Young (591 articles)
First-ever walkout by Samsung employees in South Korea

In a historic move, unionized workers at Samsung Electronics organized a walkout, marking a significant moment in the company’s over five-decade history. They collectively took a day of paid leave to make their voices heard.

The union action at the world’s leading memory-chip maker did not have an immediate impact on operations. Samsung has not reported any work disruption. The company’s shares experienced an upward trend in early trading on Friday.

A large number of employees from the National Samsung Electronics Union, which consists of 28,000 members and represents about 20% of the company’s workforce, went on strike on Friday due to failed wage negotiations. The union officials did not provide specific information regarding the number of workers who participated in the strike.

According to market analysts, the company most likely made work adjustments in response to the union action. This occurred on a work day between a public holiday in South Korea and the weekend. Additionally, the company’s chip-fabrication facilities, which are heavily automated, do not usually rely on a significant amount of human labor.

Samsung’s management and union leaders have been engaged in wage negotiations since January, with both parties expressing differing views on the wage increase rate, bonuses, and other working conditions.

“The company management has been honest in discussions with the union and will continue to be,” stated a Samsung spokesperson on Friday.

However, according to recent union statements, management has been accused of lacking respect for the union as a negotiating partner.

At a crucial juncture for Samsung, the labor action coincides with the company’s efforts to regain its competitive advantage in the semiconductor industry. This is driven by the increasing demand for advanced chips due to the artificial-intelligence boom.

Thanks to an AI-driven recovery in the industry, Samsung’s chip-making business experienced a remarkable turnaround, with net profit for the first quarter more than quadrupling after four consecutive quarters of losses.

However, the company is still grappling with a difficult business landscape.

In May, Samsung made a change in its semiconductor business leadership due to concerns about its competitiveness in developing high-bandwidth-memory products, which are essential for AI and high-performing computing systems.

According to CLSA estimates, Samsung’s market share in the global foundry business, which involves manufacturing chips designed by others, dropped from 18% in 2029 to 12% in 2023.

Julie Young

Julie Young

Julie Young is a Senior Market Reporter and Analyst. She has been covering stock markets for many years.