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Samsung union announces first strike over pay

HR should focus on open communication with employees, to prevent pay disputes, said the MD of consultancy Lodge Court

The union representing Samsung Electronics in South Korea announced its first ever strike yesterday (29 May), amid a continuing pay dispute.

The National Samsung Electronics Union, which represents around 28,000 workers, said that workers will hold a one-day strike in response to stalled progress on wage negotiations with the manufacturer's management. 

The union has demanded a 6.5% pay rise and a bonus linked to the company’s earnings. It has been in discussions with Samsung Electronics since the start of 2024 but has not resolved the dispute. Workers are due to strike on 7 June.

Disputes over pay frequently escalate to strike action, commented Andrew Willis, associate director of legal at law firm Croner.

He told HR magazine: "Pay is the dispute that we hear about most when it comes to strike action, both now and historically. Given that we are currently in a cost of living crisis, many workers are turning to their employer to ask for a pay rise to try to help them with increased outgoings.

"Lots of employers, however, are also feeling the pinch, so don’t necessarily have the resources to agree to any such pay increase. The result could be an ongoing dispute which could sometimes end up in strike action."

Read more: Who is on strike in May and June 2024?

Ian Moore, managing director of consultancy Lodge Court, told HR magazine that HR should focus on open communication with employees to prevent pay disputes.

He said: “HR can implement several measures to prevent pay disputes from escalating into strikes. First, establish open and transparent communication channels to ensure that employees are well informed about company performance, compensation policies and any potential changes. 

“Regular engagement with employees and union representatives allows HR to identify and address concerns early. Conducting periodic benchmarking studies ensures that wages and bonuses remain competitive, preventing dissatisfaction. 

“Implementing feedback mechanisms such as surveys or town hall meetings helps gather employee input on compensation and work conditions, demonstrating that their voices are valued.”

Read more: Council appeals ruling over "bully-boy" email to strikers

HR should train managers to respond to disputes over pay to prevent strikes, Moore added.

“Training HR staff and managers in conflict resolution techniques equips them to de-escalate tensions and find mutually acceptable solutions,” he said.

“By proactively addressing these areas, HR can foster trust and transparency, significantly reducing the likelihood of disputes escalating into strikes."