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Archive for July 26th, 2018

 

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If you still believe corporations today are too powerful to be challenged, or you still doubt the power of ordinary people to defy and defeat corporate nastiness and abuse, here is some news for you:  a small labor advocacy group has just extracted long-awaited, major concessions from one of the world’s nastiest and most powerful companies.

Official Triumph

It’s now official.  On July 24, SHARPS and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. signed an agreement, under which a third-party mediation committee will produce an arbitration proposal by October regarding the tech conglomerate’s occupational disease clusters.

The proposal will bind Samsung to make a public apology to its cluster victims, to compensate them under new criteria, and to revamp workplace safety measures—all as proposed by the Mediation Committee.

“It is truly deplorable that the issues of workers having fallen ill and died from on-the-job chemical exposure remained unsolved for more than ten long years,” said Hwang Sang-ki, a SHARPS founder and a 63-year-old taxi driver who lost her then-21-year-old daughter in 2007 to occupationally caused leukemia at Samsung, “just because they were poor ones without money and power.”

“Samsung will proactively cooperate with the Mediation Committee,” said Kim Sung-sik, Samsung’s executive vice president who signed the agreement on his company’s behalf.  “Only a complete solution [of the occupational disease] would console the sickened workers and their families.”

Ramming the Invincibility of Samsung

Samsung needs to turn around its tarnished image ahead of a supreme court ruling for founding family scion Lee Jae-yong, according to multiple local press reports. Lee may face long prison terms after allegedly bribing a now-impeached President Park Geun-hye to facilitate his hereditary takeover of Samsung.

However, it was SHARPS’s tenacious campaign that continued to punch holes in the impenetrable walls of a scandal-ridden Samsung empire.

“We began the sit-in with two desperate tasks in mind,” said SHARPS in a statement after signing the agreement.  “First, we needed to make the world know Samsung’s occupational-disease issue was still ongoing, and second, we needed to have discontinued dialogue with Samsung re-initiated,” SHARPS added.

“After enduring more than 1,000 days on streets, we achieved both,” the advocacy group concluded.

 Ending The Sit-in

On July 25 evening, SHARPS and its supporters held a rally ending their sit-in after 1,023 days.

“What a victory,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, in a video feed at the rally.  “Now we need to see that Samsung is forced to reveal the names of these chemicals [used in production],” added the leader of the 180-million-strong global union organization.  In May 2017, she visited the sit-in to mark the 600th day of the protest.

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One of the first nights during SHARPS’ 1,023-day sit-in

On Victims

As of June 2018, SHARPS has profiled 320 victims of Samsung’s cluster. Among them 118 have died.  The advocacy group has, via petition or through court filings, successfully assisted 28 victims of Samsung and others in getting workers compensation.

The following is a full translation of Hwang Sang-ki’s remarks about the agreement.  All brackets ([ ]) are added to aid readability:   

More than thirteen years have passed since my Yumi fell victim to leukemia

She had to tender her resignation while under medical treatment for the disease.  Samsung collected her resignation letter after promising me KRW 50 million [U$44,000] to reimburse some medical expenses I had paid for.  They gave me KRW 5 million (U$4,400], instead. A big corporation should not unscrupulously break its own promise to its own workers who were dying due to on-the-job chemical exposure.

It is truly deplorable that the issues of workers having fallen ill and died from on-the-job chemical exposure remained unsolved for more than ten long years, just because they were poor ones without money and power.

I [often] could not but to ask what the government and corporations are for.

Nevertheless, it is really a relief to get clues to the solution of Samsung’s occupational-disease issue.

I welcome it.

There must be no repeat of such workplace issues in my country.  I am grateful to Mediation Committee Chair and others who have been showing interest in the matter.  Thank you.

Hwang Sang-ki, SHARPS

July 24, 2018

 

The following is a full translation of the statement SHARPS released on the agreement.  All brackets ([ ]) are added to aid readability:   

  1. Today, SHARPS and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd agreed to accept the arbitration framework proposed by the Mediation Committee.

  2.  It was five years and seven months ago when the proposal for mediation was made.  It was three years and one day ago when the Mediation Committee unveiled its first proposal.  It was 1,022 days ago when we began to sit in, awaiting re-initiation of the dialogue that had never been initiated with Samsung over the mediation proposal.

  3. It still feels less than adequate that arbitration has supplanted direct dialogue of the two parties.  However, we could have not made this invaluable step forward without such long and hard periods.

  4. We appreciate the Mediation Committee spending considerable amounts time and efforts addressing the [occupational disease] issue. Indeed, it was not easy to consent, in advance, to an arbitration proposal without knowing the details.  We decided to place trust in an initiation pledge by the Mediation Committee:  It would perceive the [occupational disease] issue as part of a [broader] social agenda and help solve it in kind.  In its proposal for arbitration., the committee said, “the Mediation Committee has to consider rational criteria that can be used for any future [occupational disease] victims to receive appropriate assistance.”  In the hope that it will make good on this commitment, we expect the arbitration proposal.

  5. It was not an easy decision for Samsung to consent to the proposal.  Since it has made a difficult commitment, we hope the wishes and demands of society reach out to Samsung: it should safeguard the lives and safety of workers in a wholesome way that fits its influence and status.

  6. We wholeheartedly appreciate our supporters who spent two winters and three summers [in a makeshift canopy] without a proper roof or floor despite severe cold snaps and heat waves.  Thanks to you, we did not envy any five-star hotel guests.  We show our respect to victims and their families for their persistence. Holding their hands together, they have, by themselves, endured times of agony, frustration and anger.

  7. As under the agreement, we will end the sit-in at Samsung’s corporate headquarters tomorrow with a rally.  On Oct. 7, 2015, we began the sit-in with two desperate tasks in mind:  First, we needed to make the world know Samsung’s occupational-disease issue was still ongoing, and second, we needed to have discontinued dialogue reinitiated with Samsung. After enduring more than 1,000 days on streets, we achieved both.  This is a valuable triumph made possible by those who supported and who showed solidarity.

  8. We will now revitalize our bodies and souls drained during the outdoor sit-in and anticipate the arbitration proposal.  With the agreement today, we tied the first knot. We hope you altogether closely watch us until the proposal is made and implemented.

SHARPS

July 24, 2018

 

 

 

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