Samsung faces first-ever worker strike

In a historic move, Samsung Electronics’ labor union in South Korea staged a strike on Friday, the first in the company’s 55-year history. The Nationwide Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU), representing 28,000 members—nearly a quarter of Samsung’s domestic workforce—organized the one-day strike on June 7 after unsuccessful negotiations over pay and bonuses.

The strike coincided with a public holiday, encouraging workers to use their annual leave. Son Woomok, a union leader, confirmed that many employees took the day off, with some sites needing replacement personnel. He noted that many union members work in Samsung’s key semiconductor unit, which is striving to regain its top position in the AI chip market, currently dominated by competitors SK Hynix and Micron Technology.

Despite the strike, a Samsung spokesperson assured that production and management activities were unaffected, highlighting that the annual leave usage was lower than last year’s Memorial Day. This comes as Samsung navigates a challenging period marked by a pandemic-induced chip shortage and subsequent decline in electronics demand due to global economic uncertainties.

However, the company is optimistic about future demand, driven by the AI boom and new product launches. Last month, Samsung reported a significant increase in first-quarter operating profit, buoyed by strong forecasts for AI and high-end chips. Competing with Intel and Taiwan’s TSMC, Samsung is poised to leverage its semiconductor prowess amidst growing industry competition. South Korea aims to challenge Taiwan’s dominance in the advanced microchip sector, with Samsung at the forefront of this effort.