Samsung Electronics coughs up £55m for cancer-stricken workers

Dosh will be used for research, compensation

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About seventy people have died and more than 200 have been diagnosed with cancer at Samsung's displays and chips factories, and having accepted responsibility in May 2014 the tech giant this week announced a 100 billion won (£55m) fund for victims.

Workers and campaigners have attributed illnesses such as lymphoma and leukemia to prolonged exposure to radiation or dangerous chemicals used in Samsung's factories.

The fund will be used both for direct compensation to workers or families of those who became sick while working at its plants, including contractors. It will also be used for research, employment of experts and other methods to improve worker safety.

Samsung initially denied that it was responsible and commissioned a report from Environ International Corp, a Washington DC-based consulting firm which claimed that levels in its factories were safe. A Korean court found otherwise.

The Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (Sharps) has been especially critical of Samsung and says that previous compensation has been inadequate. The organisation claims that Samsung uses thousands of chemicals for manufacturing chips, but the names of the chemicals are not disclosed.

Sharps also blames the Korean government for protecting the profits of the company rather than the workers' right to know by saying that the information about the toxic chemicals is a “trade secret”.

Sharps said that clean rooms are filtered to remove harmful particles. The filters, however, don’t remove toxic vapours and various gases, and it claims the clean rooms and bunny suits are designed to protect the wafers, not the workers. It also says that protective devices were only installed recently.

According to Sharps, workers are often forced to turn off the filtration systems in order to keep up with the set production rate.

The Register has contacted Samsung and been assured that a statement from it, addressing Sharps' allegations, is on its way. ®

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