Ever since a Samsung chip factory worker died of leukaemia, in 2007, there has been a long-standing dispute between Samsung Electronics and the South Korean independent NGO, Supporters for Health and Right of People in Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS), over occupational health risks. However, the row on workers’ compensation has now been resolved.[i]
In 2015, SHARPS was aware of 200 workers with ill health, of whom 70 had died subsequently. As of June 2018, SHARPS admitted that these figures had increased. There had been 319 reported cases of industrial disease, 117 of which resulted in mortality. SHARPS believes that there is a direct link between Samsung factories and a rise in cases of infertility, multiple sclerosis and cancer.[ii]
It is believed that health risks are caused by chemical leaks in semi-conductor plants, these being premises where devices, such as integrated circuits, are manufactured.[iii] For this reason, it is presumed that health risks are not isolated among Samsung employees. Indeed, in 2013, 11 Intel fabrication plant (Fab 32) workers were hospitalised.[iv]
In July of 2018, Samsung and SHARPS agreed to unconditionally accept an arbitration proposal on compensation. One month later, a U.N. human rights body welcomed Samsung’s decision to compensate workers, calling on Samsung and other electronics businesses to protect workers across their global operations.
We last reported on this issue, in edition 234 of BC Disease News (here), when SHARPS urged Samsung to disclose historic environmental monitoring reports, documenting chemical use.
This month, the mediation committee requested that Samsung pay up to 150 million South Korean won (approximately £103,000) to former and incumbent employees (and private contractors) suffering from work-related diseases. Compensated workers must have worked in semiconductor or display production plants for at least 1 year post-1984.
In an official statement, Samsung agreed to comply with the mediation body’s decision:
‘We will keep our promise to completely adhere to the mediator’s decision and will quickly come up with plans to implement the decision’.[v]
Samsung later informed the BBC that:
‘Samsung Electronics stands by the promise to unconditionally accept the suggested solutions and will work quickly on detailed plans for execution’.[vi]
[ii] Chris Merriman, ‘Samsung will award compensation after 10 year campaign over deaths’ (2 November 2018 The Inquirer) <https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3065611/samsung-will-award-compensation-after-10-year-campaign-over-deaths> accessed 13 November 2018.
[iii] Semiconductor Fabrication Plant’ (21 June 2018 Any Silicon) <https://anysilicon.com/semipedia/semiconductor-fabrication-plant/ > accessed 14 June 2018.
[iv] Lawrence Latif, ‘Intel Fab 32 leaks gas leaving 11 workers needing hospital treatment’ (1 June 2013 The Inquirer) <https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2278612/intel-fab-32-leaks-gas-leaving-11-workers-needing-hospital-treatment> accessed 13 November 2018
[v] ‘Samsung Electronics to compensate ill workers at plants after mediator’s proposal’ (1 November 2018 Reuters) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-samsung-elec-workers/samsung-electronics-to-compensate-ill-workers-at-plants-after-mediators-proposal-idUSKCN1N64NQ?il=0> accessed 13 November 2018.
[vi] Ibid at 1.