Samsung union-busting confronted by UK-wide student protests
The 48 Hours of Action Against Samsung campaign saw nine student groups hold protests in seven cities in England, Scotland and Wales on the 25th and 26th October 2019. Students took action at Samsung stores, the stores of its re-sellers and on university campuses.
Samsung opposes trade unions amongst its workforce. It has been accused of preventing factory workers from forming, joining or organising within unions, a policy that has helped to foster abuse against workers. Samsung factory conditions in some countries are reportedly so poor that they pose a danger – sometimes fatally – to workers. In October 2019, we covered the story of Yong-Hee Kim, a former Samsung employee. Kim continues to occupy the 25-metre Samsung tower in Seoul, South Korea. He has been up there for 171 days as of 27 November 2019.
In October 2016, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a damning report – Samsung Exposed – Modern Tech, Medieval Conditions. It showed that Samsung has engaged in union busting through sacking union members, threatening migrant workers with deportation and locking union members out of factories. As Sharan Burrow, General Secretary for the ITUC, writes: “Samsung’s corporate culture is ruthlessly geared towards maximising profit to the detriment of the everyday lives of its workers.”
The recent UK actions, co-ordinated by student campaigning charity People & Planet, took place in Oxford, Brighton, Guildford, Edinburgh, Plymouth, Cardiff and Leeds. More than 1,350 people have already signed a petition asking Samsung to cease its anti-union activities and allow its workers freedom of association.
J Clarke, Co-Director of Workers Rights at People & Planet, said:
“Students are taking action on this issue because they recognise that workers rights are an international issue, and standing in solidarity with those experiencing union-busting is important for workers everywhere, not just in Samsung supply chains. Tech products made in terrible conditions end up in shiny stores in the UK. We are here to shine a light on the repression and exploitation happening behind closed doors.”
The focus on Samsung is a part of People & Planet’s broader work on corporate power and impunity. University of Sussex student and Brighton participant, Martha Knott, explained why alleged union-busting formed the focus of the actions:
“The right to unionise is vital. Without this right, workers can’t change the horrific conditions they work in. We stand in solidarity with Samsung workers and their right to fight for safe working conditions.”
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