International labour groups continue to call for global actions and demand Samsung and the Korean Government to accept responsibility for occupational deaths and to provide safe and decent working conditions. Last April 28, on Workers’ Memorial Day, a petition was launched to demanding accountability from Samsung-and the government. Groups include the Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS) and the International Campaign for Health and Labour Rights of Samsung Electronics Workers.
In a strong speech made last year and now available in English translation, Jung Ae-jung, wife of Samsung-worker and leukemia victim Hwang Min-woong, expresses her frustration and anger with Samsung for being an irresponsible employer:
I believed in Samsung
Samsung was my future, and and the hope of our family.
Whether it was day or night we didn’t care and we thought it was almost a sin to be absent, we worked so sincerely, even as the work got harder. We thought, that’s the least we should do for the hope of our family – Samsung. Even with the sharp chemical smell stinging our noses and the high air pressure making us exhausted, I had pride in this job, which was my first job. For me, Samsung was a place like that.
It was, until my husband fell victims to leukemia.
Though I believed in Samsung
I thought it would be the basic minimum, to inform us through education of why there was a nauseating chemical smell, and the effects on the body of noise and vibration. I thought at the least, the company could let us know that high air pressure could cause legs to swell, and cause some people to have nose bleeds, and that all these could cause huge stress to a person, and could lead a person to become ill of disease.
I thought at the least, the company would inform us that there is a manufacturing process using radiation, and inform us what radiation is, what the chemicals and gases being used are, how harmful they are to our bodies, and whether the workers on the site are being paid highly for hazard allowance.
I was a fool to believe in Samsung
It was wrong to put a person in charge of occupational safety who is only concern about personnel transfer and knows nothing about the chemicals used at the workplace.
It was wrong to make workers use chemicals without any instruction about them, chemicals that are labelled with stickers only in English and no Korean translation.
It was wrong to to legitimize abusing wages, by introducing a promotion test system for the first time to women workers just as they are gaining seniority and due to have higher wages. Even more dumbfounding than this, saying that the work was hard even if the worker was educated, and then giving exams to the men and women workers on semiconductor theory and practice, specialized theory of each manufacturing process, common knowledge of semiconductors, general knowledge, business vision of the company… all this only serves to trifle with and mock the workers at the site.
It was wrong to make pregnant women write consent letters just to avoid the letter of the law and make them work on the night shift in a special environment that would be hard even for normal people, regarding them as one regular person on the line and even creating a maternity anti-dust uniform for them – though it would be tough on the expecting mother and also create hardship for her colleagues who would want to protect her. It was even more wrong to regard the provision of that special uniform as a benefit provided by the company, and take credit for it.
It is wrong, when women workers of child-bearing age had irregular menstruation and high miscarriage rates, to smooth it over with words saying that it only appeared to be relatively high rates of these problems.
It is wrong to focus just on meeting production targets, and insist on overtime work on work days and holiday, threatening that refusal would be reflected in workers’ evaluations – affecting their bonuses and promotion.
It is wrong, if the owner is human at all, to not purchase equipment for robots to automatically operate but instead to make operators keep operating equipment manually that exposes them to chemicals.
No matter how it hurts the company image or harms the business, it is really wrong to flick off like flies, the employee who are dying and suffering in numbers, from leukemia, rare diseases, and women’s diseases.
It is really wrong that Samsung whom we trusted, has done all this to us!