Shown above is the head office of Samsung Electronics in Seoul. The tech giant’s trade union policy has come under question while the firm introduced a new human resource management system. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Will the Korean tech giant fully embrace unionists?

Midway through last year, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong promised to scrap the conglomerate’s decades-old “no trade union” policy.

However, union members contended of late that Samsung Electronics had not abided by the pledge, as shown by recent treatments of its union members.

“Over four months after the collective agreement, there have been no talks with the management. There have been only unilateral notifications,” a Samsung unionist said.

Last year, multiple labor unions of Samsung Electronics formed a joint group to start negotiations with Samsung and signed the first collective agreement this August.

The agreement includes more than 95 clauses about the rights of the unionized workers and terms over other labor issues.

“For the recent changes in the human resource management system, the management let us know it in the last minute. And we were forced to keep silent,” the unionist said.

Last month, the world’s largest memory chip maker announced its plan to make a flexible and flatter organizational culture by scrapping a seniority-based hierarchy system.

When a company changes its office regulations in South Korea, it is required to listen to the opinions of the trade union or a majority of employees. When its change is unfavorable to workers, the company should get their agreements.

Against this backdrop, an online petition was posted to the Presidential House’s website last week, claiming that the company tried to force its employees to agree with the new office regulations.

“We thought that Vice Chairman Lee had vowed to accept the trade union as a part of Samsung. But it appears that we misunderstood him,” civic group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy official Lee Jo-eun said.

“Samsung’s communication with its union members is a one-way street. That means that Samsung’s management does not regard trade unions as its partners,” he said.

A Samsung official criticized that unionists keep opposing the new human resource management system even before its execution.