The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has put threats against factory workers and labour activists in Samsung’s Vietnamese factories on top of the agenda for the South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his visit to the country.

In a letter to the President, Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, highlighted the risks to human and labour rights in Samsung’s operations. Urging the President to engage Samsung management both in Korea and in Vietnam to address grievances and ensure that the company carries out human rights due diligence with respect to Samsung subsidiaries and suppliers.

Sharan Burrow expressed that:

“Samsung’s track record of human and labour rights abuses has been exposed in nearly every country where they operate. From covering up the name of industrial chemicals that induce workers’ deaths and illness in the interests of ‘trade secrets’, to a no-union policy across its Asian electronics industry, Samsung relies on a business model that has lost its moral compass.”

Pressure on Samsung’s operations in Vietnam has been growing since evidence of worker mistreatment emerged from the Hanoi-based Research Centre for Gender, Family, Environment and Development (CGFED) and IPEN, global network of environment and health NGOs working to reduce and eliminate harmful chemicals. The evidence showed workers were not educated on how to protect themselves from toxic chemicals used to manufactured mobile phones.

As a result of their working conditions, young female employees at Samsung factories have reported symptoms of fainting, fatigue and miscarriage associated with toxic chemicals.

UN human rights experts expressed their concern this week about the harassment and intimidation of workers who spoke about their conditions at work.  Workers have been asked to present themselves to government authorities and threatened with lawsuits.

Samsung Electronics is Vietnam’s largest foreign investor employing nearly 137,000 workers in two plants in the country, manufacturing 50% of the company’s mobile phones.

“President Moon’s leadership and commitment to human and labour rights is critical to ensuring respect for the rights of millions of workers in the region producing goods and providing services to multinational companies,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC report, Modern Technology, Medieval Conditions pieced together the global scandal of Samsung’s worldwide operations from Brazil to Korea. This is accompanied by the multimedia documentary ‘Samsung Exposed‘, which shows conditions in Samsung’s supply chain in Indonesia and the Philippines.

President Moon is visiting Vietnam to promote his administrations “New Southern Policy”, a regional economic strategy to strengthen relationships between Korea and ASEAN countries.

“Korea’s President has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to ratify ILO core conventions and to follow the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission. The “New Southern Policy” should not only target forging economic ties with South East Asia, but must also reflect commitments to respect human rights, in particular concerning the behaviour of Korean companies,” said Sharan Burrow

Read the ITUC letter to President Moon.