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Archive for November 8th, 2017

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“Miscarriages are extremely common in Samsung’s Vietnam operations,” finds a new study by IPEN and CGFED.  Source: IPEN website caputre

 

Women workers who assemble smartphones in the rapidly expanding Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Vietnam operations chronically suffer extreme fatigue, fainting and dizziness at work, a joint study by international rights groups has found.

And miscarriages are so extremely common that they have come to be expected.

“The workers’ experiences of frequent fainting, dizziness, miscarriages, standing for eight-to-twelve hours, and alternating day/night shift work are documented,” the two joint authors , the Hanoi-based Research Center for based Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and IPEN, a Göteborg, Sweden-based global environmentalist network, said on Nov. 3.

Vietnam: A New Flashpoint for Samsung.

The study, Stories of Women Workers In Vietnam’s Electronics Industry, confirms SHARPS’ and many activists’ long-held belief that Vietnam has been emerging as a new flashpoint for concerns about Samsung’s ongoing, oft-fatal disregard for worker safety and health.

Since 2008, the world’s largest technology company has made strides into Vietnam, where it has now become the largest foreign investor and the largest foreign employer.  With a yearly turnover of US$36 billion, Samsung makes up 69 percent of the annual revenue of US$53 billion of Vietnam’s electronics industry, its largest foreign-currency earner.

Currently, at two factories in the north of Hanoi, about 116 thousand workers assemble more than 50 percent of Samsung mobile phones and 100 percent of high-end Galaxy smartphones.

About 80 percent of the workforce are women in their twenties.

To date little is known about the working conditions of these workers.  In Sept. 2016, when Samsung recalled fire-prone Galaxy 7 Notes, the Vietnamese workers had to assemble 7 million replacements during the five-day Harvest Moon holidays.

Also, in Feb. 2017, a riot flared up after scuffles between workers and security guards over crowded gate turnstiles at a Samsung Display factory in Vietnam

Unprecedented Study

The CGFED and IPEN study, a combination of sector research and hours of interviews of 45 women workers at the two Samsung mobile phone factories, is the first-ever attempt at shedding light on the company’s negligence in worker safety and health at its new production hub.

Here are some highlights:

  • None of the 45 workers, 25-years-old on average, received a copy of their labor contracts—a violation of Vietnam’s law.
  • Workers reported that miscarriages are extremely common—even expected.
  • Workers must stand throughout their 8-to-12-hour shifts and many are kept on alternating day and night shift schedules, regardless of weekends.
  • Pregnant workers usually stand for the entire shift to avoid having the company deduct money from their wages for taking breaks.
  • More than half of the interviewed women have children, but are separated from them.  The children live with their grandparents in another town or city.
  • Workers reported problems with eyesight, nose bleeds, and stomachaches, as well as bone, joint, and leg pain.
  • Workers’ lives are controlled inside and outside of work.  Breaks are short and limited, and workers must request special passes to use the restroom. Workers are wary of speaking about work because of fear of reprisals.
  • Despite the fact that workers are stationed in open factory settings where other workers use a variety of substances, they did not consider assembly line work a chemical risk.

Same Old, Same Old

From long working hours to standing and working, what’s happening in Samsung’s Vietnam operations happened or is happening in Samsung’s Korean plants.  In July 2017, the KCOMWEL approved a workers compensation claim filed by a Samsung LCD worker.  She was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia caused by six years of chemical exposure and long and rotational work shifts.  Before her diagnosis, she suffered from chronic fatigue, irregular periods, and infertility.

Samsung’s Denials      

The two activist groups called on the company and the Vietnamese government to disclose more information about Samsung’s working conditions to determine a causal link between the frequent miscarriages and labor practices.

“Some of the [Vietnam’s Samsung] workers think it is because of their standing and walking around early in pregnancy,” Joseph DiGangi, IPEN’s science and technical advisor, told JTBC, “but we really have no information about the cause.”

Samsung said there is no work-caused miscarriage, according to JTBC.  A litigious Samsung has threatened CGFED with a libel lawsuit over the study according to a Facebook post by Jeong-ok Kong, a medical doctor and a SHARPS founder.

About 4,000, or 4.3 percent of the female workforce at Samsung’s two mobile-phone operations in Vietnam, are currently pregnant, JTBC quoted Samsung as saying.

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Joseph DiGangi, speaking for IPEN, calls on Samsung to disclose more information about labor practices at its Vietnam operations.  Source: JTBC capture

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

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