Samsung offers apology for workers' leukemia

Ten people have died after working in Samsung's semiconductor plants, an industry health rights group said

Samsung offered its "sincerest apology" for the sickness and deaths of some of its workers, vowing to compensate those affected and their families.

"Some of Samsung's former employees have passed away after contracting leukemia or are coping with difficult-to-treat diseases after having worked at our manufacturing facility," the company said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

"It is truly sad and heart-breaking for us," the company said, adding that it could have been more diligent in addressing the hardship and sorrow of former employees and the families of the deceased. "We feel regret that a solution for this delicate matter has not been found in a timely manner, and we would like to use this opportunity to express our sincerest apology to the affected people."

Samsung said it wants to resolve the issue with the concerned parties with "utmost sincerity", adding that it will compensate former employees battling illness and the families of the deceased.

Samsung's apology came in response to a proposal by families and the Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS) group.

So far there have been 26 victims of blood cancers (leukemia and lymphoma) reported to SHARPS, who worked in Samsung's Gi-Heung and On-Yang semiconductor plants. Ten have died, the group said on it site.

Other alleged workplace-related illnesses reported to SHARPS include miscarriages, infertility, irregular menstruation, loss of hair, blood disorders, kidney troubles and liver disease.

Working in Samsung's semiconductor plants is hazardous, SHARPS said.

Thousands of chemicals that are used for the manufacturing of chips aren't disclosed to the workers. Cleanrooms in the factories don't filter toxic gases and are designed to protect the wafers rather than the workers, according to the organization. Workers are also often forced to turn off recently installed protective devices to keep up with the production rate, it said.

The parties will now discuss setting up an impartial independent mediating group that will determine the criteria and eligibility for compensation, Samsung said, adding that it will fully comply with any guideline for compensation set by that mediator.

Moreover, an independent professional organization will conduct a thorough examination of health and safety conditions in Samsung's semiconductor facilities. Measures to prevent recurrences of health issues will be established based on the findings, the company said.

Samsung will also withdraw as a party of interest from lawsuits filed by Samsung employees and their families against the Korea Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service, it said.

"We hope this issue can soon be resolved amicably and help relieve the pains of our concerned employees and their families," Samsung said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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