updated 03:10 am EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Supplier manufactures phones, MP3 players for Korean company
According to watchdog agency China Labor Watch, a HEG Electronics-owned factory that assembles products for Samsung Electronics has been hiring underage workers, and violating Chinese labor laws. During the investigation, the auditor discovered seven underage workers, and believed that many more illegal workers remained undiscovered by the spot audit. The factory assembles mobile phones, stereo equipment, and MP3 players for Samsung.
The report detailed the increased employment of "student laborers" during the summer and winter vacations, and can reach up to 80 percent of the labor force in the factory. During non-vacation times, the student workforce is 60 percent. Child workers deal with the same conditions as adults, but are paid 70 percent of the adult wage.
China Labor Watch reports that "any carelessness, such as slow movements, misoperation, or late completion of team leaders' orders could provoke the shouting of team leaders at anytime. Every day, employees in the workshops were punished by standing all day long, writing self-criticism, or getting fined." In addition, the agency found that the company has neither a health clinic nor first-aid kits in dorms or the factory floor. Accidental work injuries are treated by supervisors. The report claims that the factory "essentially offers no medical protection measures" to its workers.
HEG is accused of accumulating the child-labor pool through poor internal supervision and substandard ID review. Local schools were found to be supplying workers to the factory, and providing them with forged identification claiming legal work age. Children in China often feel obligated to work to help support their families, particularly in rural areas where poverty is acute.
Samsung denies the charges, telling ZDNet Asia "Samsung Electronics has conducted two separate on-site inspections on HEG's working conditions this year but found no irregularities on those occasions. Given the report, we will conduct another field survey at the earliest possible time to ensure our previous inspections have been based on full information and to take appropriate measures to correct any problems that may surface."
In the wake of a similar report, little has changed at Foxconn since it and Apple agreed to make changes to working conditions, says Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SSACM). The activist group recently visited several Foxconn factories and interviewed 170 workers, and claims that rights violations "remain the norm," involving high production targets, inhumane treatment, and evidence of broad salary cuts. SSACM's claims have not been independently verified.