Samsung To Investigate Fresh Child Labour Allegations

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Samsung blind-sided with child labour allegations at a factory in mainland China belonging to a supplier

Electronics giant Samsung has promised to investigate allegations that a supplier in Southern China is using child labour.

The claim was made by the New York-based activist group, China Labor Watch (CLW), which has often in the past castigated the labour practices of companies in the supply chain of Apple and others.

Child Labour

The activist group said it had identified a factory called Shinyang Electronics in Dongguan, China, which during periods of intense production, will hire “child labor and underage student workers.”

“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,” said the group. “These young workers usually leave when the factory as it enters the off-season, and the factory does not need to provide any sort of severance pay.”

And China Labor Watch said that this is not the first time that this happened. It said that it had first revealed the exploitation of children in a Samsung supplier factory nearly two years ago.

samsung_logo_genericdevice4-580-75CLW castigated Samsung for claiming in its 2014 sustainability report titled “Global Harmony”, that “no instances of child labour were found”, despite it inspecting the working conditions at 200 suppliers in 2013.

“After allegedly inspecting hundreds of suppliers, Samsung did not find one child worker,” said the group. “Yet in just one Samsung supplier factory, CLW has uncovered several children employed without labour contracts, working 11 hours per day and only being paid for 10 of those hours.”

The group said that for two years now, it has repeatedly exposed the poor labour conditions in Samsung’s supply chain. It said that Samsung continues to fail to implement its own code of conduct and social commitments, and its suppliers as a result continue not to take these standards seriously.

“Samsung’s social responsibility reports are just advertisement,” said CLW’s Executive Director Li Qiang. “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.”

Urgent Investigation

But Samsung has come out quickly and said that it is urgently investigating the claims. It also investigated the child labour claims back in 2012, but it did not discover any child workers. That said, it did discover potentially dangerous working conditions.

“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 told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Apple tightened up its auditing process on suppliers after years of damaging worker allegations against its supply chain in mainland China. In 2011, its annual report on its supply chain uncovered that 91 children under the age of 16 years old had worked at its suppliers in 2010.

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