Samsung made an official apology in connection with the collapse of the Samsung Electronics Service labor union. Attention is focusing on whether there will be any change in labor-management culture after Samsung, which has adhered to the principle of no-union management, issued an apology.
Samsung Electronics and Samsung C&T said in a joint statement on Dec. 18 that they are deeply sorry for causing concern and disappointment over labor and management issues and that they will not let this happen again.
"We humbly accept that the company's views and perceptions of labor unions in the past did not meet the expectations of the public and society," it said.
"We will establish a future-oriented and healthy labor-management culture in the spirit of respect for executives and employees."
The Seoul Central District Court on Dec. 17 sentenced Samsung Electronics Directors’ Committee Chairman Lee Sang-hoon and Vice President Kang Kyung-hoon to one year and six months in prison on 13 charges, including violation of the labor union law and labor relations adjustment law, respectively, in the first trial of the Samsung Electronics Service union collapse.
On the same day, the court convicted 26 of 32 former and current executives and employees of Samsung Group affiliates and arrested seven of them in court.
"A number of documents related to unfair labor practices, such as union strategies, emergency response scenarios, secret reports, conference materials and press releases, were found in the Future Strategy Office," the court said.
"Even Chairman Lee and Vice President Kang all ordered and reported strategies for the union breakdown."
Kang was previously indicted on charges of obstructing Everland's union activities on Dec. 13 and sentenced to one year and four months in prison in the first trial. In the trial, about 10 executives and employees, including Vice President Kang and former Executive Director Lee Woo-suk of Everland, were sentenced to prison terms.
While some of the guilty verdicts were found in the first trial in connection with the Samsung Electronics Service union, Samsung's apology is interpreted as a forward-looking intention to create labor-management relations that are compatible with public perception and social values, regardless of the legal level.
Samsung has continued its no-union management principle since the late founder Lee Byung-chull founded Samsung Merchant in Daegu. The union of Cheil Industries was established in 1960 and the Mi Poong factory union of Cheil Jedang in 1977, but they were dissolved under internal and external pressure shortly after their formation.
In the 1980s, there was a move by Samsung Heavy Industries to establish a labor union, but it thwarted the establishment of the union by first setting up a company-dominated union, taking advantage of the fact that multiple unions were not allowed at the time.
With the official launch of the union of Samsung Electronics, a member of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, on Nov. 16, four multiple unions are currently established within Samsung Electronics.
In addition, labor unions were established at Samsung Electronics Service under the umbrella of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and its affiliates such as Samsung SDI, Samsung Life Insurance, Samsung Securities, Everland and S1.