Wed, Jan 13, 2016 - Page 14 News List

Independent committee to inspect Samsung plants

Bloomberg

Samsung Electronics Co yesterday said it would set up an independent committee to inspect its facilities, the company’s latest concession after reports that scores of workers developed rare cancers and other illnesses at semiconductor factories.

The South Korean company, people with leukemia and other work-related diseases, and a local civic group formally agreed to establish an ombudsman committee that is to monitor and report on working conditions. The concession came after Samsung announced a 100 billion won (US$83 million) fund in July last year to compensate affected employees and fund preventive measures.

“We are grateful to the related parties for their collaborative partnership on finding a solution,” Samsung said in a statement. “Samsung will faithfully implement proposed improvements from the ombudsman committee and remains fully committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment for our valued employees.”

In an abrupt about-face, Samsung issued a public apology last year to workers who said they contracted rare cancers linked to chemicals at its semiconductor plants and to the surviving family members it battled in South Korea’s courts during a struggle that stretched nine years. Samsung is one of the world’s biggest chip makers, supplying its own devices and those made by competitors, including Apple Inc.

“Samsung should help this committee to operate independently in a very transparent way and should open up any core information whenever it’s needed,” Law & Business Research Center attorney Lee Ji-soo said. “If similar things happen in a country that has higher bars on workers’ rights or advanced legal protection tools, it could continue to haunt Samsung.”

Samsung has in the past denied links between some of the reported diseases, including leukemia, and potential carcinogens used in its plants. In a handful of cases, South Korean courts and the government’s worker-compensation board formally connected cancers or precancerous blood conditions to semiconductor work for Samsung, especially at its oldest and once-biggest production facility.

The company said it is committed to compensating workers and their families.

Samsung shares finished 0.5 percent lower at 1.15 million won in Seoul yesterday after posting a third straight annual decline last year.

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