A young contractor of Samsung Electronics’ customer service arm died of what appears to be overwork, after putting in an average 60 hours a week in the past four months since May.
Deadly Peak Season
On Sept. 27, Yim Hyeon-woo, an employee with Daegu Service Co, a contractor for Samsung Electronics Service, died of a brain hemorrhage. Samsung Electronics Service is a wholly owned customer service subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
The 36 year-old-repairman worked 52 hours a week at the least and more than 80 hours a week at the most in May-August of 2013, the peak season for electronics repairs, according to his work schedules obtained by independent news weekly Media Today.<Korean>
Throughout May and June, Yim worked on weekends and took only one day off. He took 30 minutes a day for lunch while visiting tens of homes and offices daily to repair or collect a variety of Samsung electronic products in the city of Daegu, South Korea’s third-largest city. At each visit, he was required to send a picture of him to his supervisor as proof that he was keeping up with the daily schedule.
Yim could only take time off for medical treatment at the cost of his piecework pay, according to a number of independent-media reports.
Yim’s “death allegedly from overwork” was the direct result of Samsung Electronics’ outsourcing policy.
Samsung Electronics outsources all repair and maintenance work to Samsung Electronics Service. Samsung Electronics Service in turn directly owns only nine of its 107 repair branches. The remaining 98 are contractors who hire the most of Samsung’s about 6,000-strong repair staff mainly on a piecework basis.
In August, about 1,600 workers from 64 branches formed a trade union, demanding Samsung Electronics Service to grant them full-time status in the company. Samsung Electronics Service effectively controls the entire repair network. It controls pay distribution for contractors and directly assigns jobs to the contract repair personnel. Also, Samsung Electronic Service regularly audits the finances of its contractors.
For Samsung, All Is Above-Board
In September, South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor ruled that Samsung should pay the contract workers overtime. However, it concluded that the way Samsung outsources repair work does not contravene the law.
The South Korean government’s acquiescence allows Samsung to continuously dump dangerous and dirty work onto small and vulnerable contractors, which in turn pass cost on to an army of contract workers.