Samsung 'urgently' investigating fresh child labor allegations

Samsung says it will 'urgently' look into fresh allegations of child labor in one of its Chinese supplier factories.


Samsung is once again in the firing line over the alleged use of child labor in supplier factories.

China Labor Watch, a non-profit dedicated to investigating labor conditions in Chinese factories, said that children were once again discovered in Samsung's supply chain, this time at a factory called Shinyang Electronics in Dongguan, China.

The allegations come two years after the labor watchdog exposed child labor in a separate Samsung supplier factory.

China Labor Watch said suppliers like Shinyang will "alter the strictness of hiring practices in order to adapt to Samsung’s demands" based on the season — for example, if a product line is being refreshed, extra hands may be needed. As a result, Shinyang allegedly hires child labor and underage student workers during the busy season.

"These minors will usually only work for a period of three to six months, toiling for 11 hours every day without overtime pay, and the factory does not purchase social insurance for them as required by law," CLW claims.

On June 30, Samsung published its 2014 sustainability report titled Global Harmony (.PDF), and the tech giant said within the report it inspected working conditions at 200 suppliers in 2013 and "no instances of child labor were found." In contrast, the watchdog says that after inspecting one factory, several children were discovered without contracts, working eleven hours a day but paid only for ten.

In addition to the alleged child labor, CLW says that at least 15 sets of labor violations were discovered (.PDF) — including "unpaid overtime wages, excessive overtime, a lack of social insurance, a lack of pre-job safety training and protective equipment, discriminatory hiring; overuse of temp workers, blank labor contracts; illegal resignation requirements; potential audit fraud; unfair company regulations that establishes the pretext to punish workers for almost any behavior and a lack of any union; as well as poor living conditions."

In a blog post, the South Korean electronics giant stood by its past stance on child labor, and said the company "maintains a zero tolerance policy on child labor." The firm commented:

For the supplier in question, we have conducted a thorough audit in March 2013 which was followed by a third-party inspection in August 2013, and yet another one in June 2014. No cases of child labor were found during these audits.

We are urgently looking into the latest allegations and will take appropriate measures in accordance with our policies to prevent any cases of child labor in our suppliers.

Samsung says that following past allegations of poor labor conditions in China, the firm has demanded that suppliers adopt new hiring processes to weed out minors, including face-to-face interviews, electronic scanners which detect fake IDs and the distribution of Samsung's expectations.

The electronics maker also launched the Child Labor Prohibition Policy in China on June 27, a policy designed to promote the same level of compliance in regard to labor enforced in the West.

"With regard to the small share of parts that are supplied by external suppliers, we are moving as fast as possible to address the labor-related issues that have been identified from our own and third-party audits," Samsung said.

CLW’s Executive Director Li Qiang commented:

Samsung's social responsibility reports are just advertisement. Samsung has put its energy into audits and the production of these reports, but these things are meant to appease investors and don’t have any real value for workers. Samsung’s monitoring system is ineffective and has failed to bring about improvements for workers. What Samsung says is not important; what’s important is their actions.