A Samsung contractor-repairman has fallen to death while he attempted to fix an air-conditioner from three stories up, adding to a rising death toll of repairpersons who, hired on a contract basis by Samsung’s outsourcing network, committed suicide, died of overwork, or was killed on the job.
The repairman, Jin Nam-jin, 45 years old, fell to the ground from the third floor of a Seoul multi-housing unit on the afternoon of June 23 when the handrail of the terrace on which he was leaning collapsed. Jin was taken to a local hospital where, late in the evening, he was pronounced dead of intestinal rupture.
He did not have any protective gear. Jin could not call in a ladder vehicle because he had little time to keep up with his schedule.
“There was no protective gear,” a union representative of Samsung Electronics Services, a Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd unit and Jin’s contractor, told independent daily Hankyoreh. “It takes about two hours for a ladder vehicle to arrive at the site. It would be very difficult for him to use the vehicle because it is too expensive and time-consuming as he is paid on a piecework basis.”
The vehicles became available about three years ago when some of Samsung Electronics Services’ contract repair personnel formed a union, but it is not easy for non-union members like Jin to use them because of time and financial constraints, said the union representative.
Tough Time Management
Samsung Electronics Services 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. Samsung’s after-sale network imposes unusually tough time-management rules on the contractors.
Deluge Of Text Messages
The company exerts tight control on the repair personnel with an incessant exchange of text messages and frequently urging to exceed daily quotas. Indeed, text messages flooded Jin’s smartphone as he attempted to fix an air conditioner, leaning against the handrail drenched and weakened by the rain a day before.
“Incomplete assignments: 110. This number must be under 60 by cutoff time,” a text message sent by his Samsung Electronics Services supervisor at 1:44pm read although the cutoff time is 6:00pm.
“You are not doing one thing right—five minutes ahead of a total shit show,” another message said at 2:19pm, about 41 minutes before his fatal fall. “You are second from the bottom [in regard to job performance]. I am being scolded, too,” a last message was sent at 3:33pm.
Come Rain Or Shine
On June 24, a day after Jin died, at 9:43am, his co-workers received a new message urging them to work outdoors on air conditioners: “Don’t postpone air conditioner repairs till tomorrow just because it is raining.”
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:
- institute a permanent, independently verifiable safety program,
- compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently and
- make a sincere and full apology.