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Archive for June, 2011

In a blow to Samsung Electronics, a court ruled yesterday that the deaths of two employees at Samsung’s semiconductor plant should be considered an industrial accident and that Samsung should compensate their families accordingly.

The two workers died of leukemia, and their families filed for industrial accident compensation with Korean Workers’ Compensation and Welfare (KWCW) three years ago, claiming their illness had been caused by exposure to harmful elements at the plant.

But KWCW refused the claim, saying it saw no direct link between leukemia and the semiconductor plant. That prompted the families to file a lawsuit in January of last year.

The Seoul Administrative Court said in a ruling yesterday: “Although it is unclear exactly how Hwang and Lee caught leukemia, it can be construed that their exposures to dangerous chemicals and radiation were catalysts, at the very least. Thus it’s safe to conclude there is a link between leukemia and the workplace.”

The court added that research by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency proves that workers at chip facilities have higher risk of cancers of the lymphatic system and leukemia, which shows environmental factors had an effect on their diseases.

But the court did not acknowledge such a link for two other workers and a family member of a late worker, citing a lack of evidence.

Samsung said it plans to appeal. A Samsung official told Yonhap, “The ruling goes against the results of investigations by a state-approved organization on semiconductor plants’ occupational environment,” adding that it will soon have results from another independent study.

The civic group Banollim, formed to protect rights of semiconductor workers, claims 20 workers at the plant suffered from leukemia or cancer, with nine deaths since 1998.

Samsung maintains that there are no such risks at its plant, citing an investigation by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency in 2007 and 2008, which concluded it’s unlikely that the plant caused the diseases.

In June, Samsung said that it commissioned an independent, yearlong safety study to examine health risks at its semiconductor plant, which will be led by Environ, an environment and health consultancy, and carried out with input from some 20 academic experts.

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

(original article: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2937990)

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Message to readers from SHARPs:

On 23 June, the final decision of the Seoul Administrative court on the lawsuit raised by five blood cancer victims in Samsung semiconductor factories in South Korea was announced.

The judge concluded that two cases of leukemia in workers who had been operators in Giheung factory, Hwang Yumi and Lee Sookyoung, can be regarded as related to the working conditions, even though there is no concrete evidence of expsure to carcinogen.

And the judge accepted almost all the arguments of the plaintiffs on the work-relatedness.

So we, SHARPs, welcome this decision of the court, but we cannot but emphasize the limitation of it.

The explanation of the court on their decision of not accepting the other three cases as occupational diseases still show a kind of serious limitation.

We will point those things out clearly as soon as possible when we get the document of final decision, and continue to fight to overcome those limitations for the right of workers.

Please share this good news with many people, and send some soludarity message to us, the victims and the activists of SHARPs, who decided to fight together until all the victims  can achieve their right to their health!

SHARPs

Following are related media reports:

Court orders compensation for Samsung employees who died of leukemia

(from Korea Herald)

SEOUL, June 23 (Yonhap) — A Seoul court ordered compensation for the families of two young Samsung Electronics employees who died of leukemia, recognizing for the first time a link between leukemia and working in a computer chip-making line.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the families, who requested the court annul the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Services’ 2009 decision not to pay compensation and funeral expenses for the deaths. The state-run worker welfare agency delivered the decision, refusing to acknowledge their deaths as workplace disasters.

The latest ruling reversed the agency’s decision, acknowledging the influence of the working conditions at Samsung Electronics on the workers’ deaths.

“Although the cause of the employees’ leukemia has yet to be determined clearly on a scientific basis, it is presumable that their constant exposure to toxic chemicals and ionizing radiation had caused or, at least, expedited the illness,” a panel of judges said. “It is fit to say there is a link between their leukemia and their careers.”

One of the two female workers, surnamed Hwang, died in 2007 at the age of 22 due to acute myeloid leukemia after being diagnosed with the illness in 2005 following her two years of work at a production line, based in Gyeonggi Province, for wafers used to make semiconductors.

The second employee, surnamed Lee, had a 10-year career at the same factory before dying of the same type of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 30.

“Given that they carried out cleaning duties on unautomated production facilities at the most worn-out place of the No. 3 bay of the No. 3 line, they seemed to have been exposed to a greater influence of toxic materials,” the judge panel said, referring to the same spot they both worked at.

Similar lawsuits against the agency and the company are expected to follow the court decision, which is the first to tie working conditions at the world’s largest memory chip maker to employee deaths.

Meanwhile, the administrative court dismissed three similar requests by the family of another dead worker and two former employees, each suffering from lymphoma and leukemia.

The court did not acknowledge the work-illness link in the cases of the two ailing people and the husband of the dead woman, who all worked at different production lines.

Samsung, which has strongly denied that its production lines pose risks of cancers, refused to accept the Seoul court’s ruling.

“The ruling shows different results from previous investigations conducted by a state agency,” the company’s spokesman Park Chun-ho said by phone. “As the ruling is not final, we will try to clear suspicions through continuing trials.”

He added that Samsung will announce this summer the result of a one-year investigation of semiconductor lines that’s currently under way by a group of overseas experts.

(original article at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110623000960)

 

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