Samsung Electronics’ union in South Korea announced on Wednesday that it will escalate its strike actions, marking the first-ever walkout in the company’s history. The National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU), which represents approximately 28,000 members—over one-fifth of the company’s total workforce—plans to stop work for a day on 7 June as part of their demands for higher wages.

During a live-streamed press conference, union officials displayed a banner stating, “We can no longer tolerate labour repression, union repression,” emphasising their grievances. The upcoming walkout will be the first instance of South Korean workers at the world’s leading memory chipmaker collectively taking a day off in protest.

In recent weeks, employees have been holding intermittent protests outside Samsung’s offices in Seoul and its chip production site in Hwaseong. The union’s demands include a wage increase beyond the 5.1% hike announced by Samsung this year, an additional day of annual leave, and more transparent performance-based bonuses.

The union criticised Samsung for failing to propose a compromise during negotiations held the previous day. In response, Samsung stated, “We will sincerely engage in discussions with the union.”

Union officials defended their decision to strike, highlighting that despite the company’s claims of facing crises over the past decade, these should not be used as excuses to deny fair compensation. Son Woo-mok, president of NSEU, remarked, “The company has been saying they are facing crisis all along for the past 10 years.”

The 7 June action is expected to affect all Samsung sites across South Korea. While the NSEU is the largest of five labour unions at Samsung, it remains unclear if the other unions will participate in the walkout. A coalition of five unions at Samsung affiliates, including another Samsung Electronics union, questioned the motives behind the strike, suggesting it might be an effort to align with a more combative umbrella union rather than focusing on improving workers’ conditions.

This strike announcement comes at a challenging time for Samsung, which has been facing difficulties in its semiconductor business. Last week, the company replaced the head of its semiconductor unit, citing the need for new leadership to navigate the current industry “crisis.”

Union membership at Samsung has grown rapidly since the company pledged in 2020 to cease practices discouraging organised labour. Analysts attribute this rise in membership to employee dissatisfaction with Samsung’s recent performance in sectors such as high bandwidth memory (HBM) chips and ongoing legal issues, including a prosecution appeal against chairman Jay Y. Lee concerning a 2015 merger of Samsung companies.

In light of the strike news, shares of Samsung Electronics fell by 3.1% on Wednesday, compared to a 1.7% decline in the benchmark KOSPI index.