Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. has paid undisclosed sums to compensate about thirty victims of its occupational disease cluster after the victims signed a confidentiality agreement shielding the company from any further legal and financial liability, an opposition lawmaker said on Oct. 22, citing Samsung documents she obtained.
The agreement makes the victims liable to forfeit their compensation if they reveal the amounts of their payouts or seek any further legal action against Samsung, said Eun Su-mi, a labor activist-turned lawmaker of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.
To Pay Without Admitting Wrongdoing: Reparation or Charitable Doles?
What is more serious: that in none of the documents the company admits any wrongdoing, reducing the nature of its payouts for cluster victims to something of charitable doles and hush money. Samsung is not only breaking its earlier commitment to dialogue on the institution of publicly verifiable inspections for worker safety, it is also playing a group of victims seeking quick payouts off against the victims and families still seeking a sustainable solution to the cluster. Samsung’s scheme would likely further fragment and isolate the victims, hamstringing them via arbitrary payouts and their inability to further take on Samsung.
UN Special Rapporteur Speaks Out
On Oct. 17, Baskut Tuncak, a special rapporteur with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, visited a sit-in by SHARPS in front of Samsung’s corporate headquarters in central Seoul. Mr. Tuncak interviewed SHARPS activists and two victims of the cluster. “I am afraid that many workers at Samsung Electronics have fallen victim to priorities that place profits before human rights,” said Mr. Tuncak in his preliminary report. “Many victims were women who started working in the semiconductor factory immediately after high school.”
“Estimates of the total number of alleged victims who worked at Samsung Electronics ranges from ninety to several hundred, with the total number across the industry unknown,” he concluded.
SHARPS began the sit-in on Oct 7, after Samsung said it would indefinitely postpone negotiations with an arbitration body aimed at finalizing the demands of the cluster group. The advocacy group now demands Samsung’s top management, not its communication team, initiate dialogue within the timeframe set by the Mediation Committee, which is the arbitration body agreed to by Samsung, SHARPS and the Settlement Committee, another advocacy group seeking prompt payouts.