Samsung begins compensation talks with sick factory workers

South Korean giant initiates talks, which will begin in coming months, with local advocacy group supporting former employees who have contracted leukemia and other work-related diseases at Samsung plants.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Samsung Electronics is beginning compensation talks with The Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS), an advocacy group for former employees who have reportedly suffered from leukemia and other sicknesses during their time at the South Korean company.

Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday that SHARPS had accepted Samsung's proposal for compensation talks following a dispute that has spanned some six years. The South Korean giant has been mired in the dispute following the deaths of its semiconductor workers who were diagnosed with leukemia and other workplace diseases, it noted.

"We formally accept Samsung's proposal to start negotiations on compensation. SHARPS will be committed to resolving and preventing the occupational disease issue, and hopes Samsung Electronics will also take a responsible stance in the talks," the advocacy group said in the report.

It also noted that officials at Samsung and SHARPS are expected to begin talks in the coming months, and the group will consult with the workers' families before making future decisions. A total of 160 alleged victims--including 60 deaths--relating to Samsung as of 2012 have been reported, SHARPS said in the report.

According to its Web site, SHARPS is composed of independent labor unions, human right groups, occupational safety and health groups, progressive political parties, and workers' organizations. Its goals are "to reveal the truth about the health and workers' rights conditions in the electronics industry and in Samsung," and "to achieve workers' fundamental rights in Samsung," among others.

Samsung has been maintaining the stance of refuting reports showing a meaningful correlation between the development of diseases and working in its plants. In July 2011, it engaged U.S. consulting firm Environ International to look into several such cases, and the latter subsequently announced that no link was found between cancer and its chip manufacturing plants, Yonhap noted.

The company did introduce a program that offers 10 years of aid for employees who are diagnosed with cancer within three years after leaving their jobs at the company's processor and liquid-crystal display (LCD) factories, it added.

ZDNet Asia has gotten in touch with Samsung Electronics, and will update this report accordingly.

Samsung had earlier committed to correct inadequate labor practices at its Chinese factories, following allegations from China Labor Watch that the company employs and abuses underage workers.

Its internal audit found no such abuse, but it did say that it will address issues such as overtime hours in excess of local regulations, supplier companies withholding labor contracts from workers, and the imposition of a fine system for being late or absent from work.

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