With almost any work environment, there’s at least some element of danger. With factories in particular, the potential for tragedy to strike is a huge issue that teams at most factories must always work to avoid. The grim truth is though, that tragedy can strike at any time; nobody is invincible. The families of a couple of dearly departed Samsung workers and their representatives, along with a number of watchdog agencies and advocacy groups, however, say that the number of deaths, injuries and onsets of disease suffered at Samsung factories is disproportionately high and something must be done.
After some tragic accidents and the 2007 leukemia death of Hwang Yu-mi, a former employee at one of Samsung’s chip factories, mounting tensions over the issue led Samsung to announce in 2014 that it would begin efforts to make things right. According to the Protector of Health and Human Rights of Semiconductor Workers, or SHARP, Samsung has a lot to make up for. Thus far, the group, which represents victims of work-related disease who were or are involved with Samsung, counts over 200 sick workers and over 71 deaths. Samsung, in response, has vowed to change conditions and compensate affected workers and families, setting aside roughly $82.9 million for this purpose. As of the end of 2015, 100 victims’ cases had been accounted for as having compensation provided.
Samsung has also reached an agreement with these groups to form an ombudsman group outside the company to inspect factories and working conditions, as well as set up medical services for employees and conduct related research. The committee will be tasked with releasing a report with their findings, which Samsung will be given the right to oppose. The committee will be monitoring Samsung and overseeing changes for three years, after which it will be determined if an additional three years is necessary or if Samsung has fulfilled their obligation. The main issue still in the air revolves around compensation and apologies, especially for the families of deceased employees. Negotiations have, at this point, hit a snag and are on hiatus. Thus far, there has been no sign of government involvement, mostly because Samsung’s fairly high safety rankings exempt most of their sub-companies from scrutiny. The public outcry has apparently been substantial, but only time will tell if Samsung can satisfy victims and families who were involved.