April 16, 2021

Samsung’s raise offer rejected, unions want more guarantees

The biggest raises in over a decade weren’t enough to convince major unions to get on board with Samsung’s employee compensation packages for the newly started fiscal year. At least as far as its own backyard is concerned. According to new reports out of the Far East, representatives of some 3,000 employees rejected last week’s offer.

Instead, they’re pushing for guaranteed double-digit increase in wages. For context, the previous offer was in the 7.5-12% range, with the last third being tied to performance bonuses.

Times are changing

This development signals a significant shift in the South Korean market power dynamics. Samsung Electronics’ nadir was less than a year and a half ago, when its former board chairman Chairman Lee Sang-hoon was jailed for union busting. Though he’d have been eligible for an early release by now anyway, he was also acquitted by last August. The Supreme Court confirmed that decision this February.

The empowered unions now number hundreds of members in their ranks and are only expected to continue growing moving forward. Four of them are involved in the ongoing negotiations with Samsung. As for the present stalemate, the unions are arguing weak wage increases over the past three years are the number one reason why they’re not content with the offer that’s presently on the table.

Where things go from here is difficult to anticipate. Both sides are already insinuating that the other might not be acting in good faith, but neither seem willing to involve the courts at this stage.

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