Factories responsible for making Samsung products are being accused of multiple labor abuses, including hitting underage workers and fining staff who spot product defects.
China Labor Watch described this litany of alleged abuses in a 31-page report on HEG Electronics based in mainland China. HEG manufactures cellphones, MP3 players, DVD players and stereo equipment for Samsung.
The 2,000-worker factory is under fire for hiring underage workers, the report begins. "Our research indicates that student laborers amount to 80% of the total workforce in the factory. During our follow up investigations, our investigators suspected that there were a large number of child laborers in other departments of the factory, estimating that there may be 50 to 100 children working there," the paper states.
The report authors interviewed a 14-year-old worker at HEG who related her story: "She
told us about her problems at HEG recently. During March and April 2012, she accidentally fell
on the stairs on her way from the dormitory to the factory floor, unable to work afterwards.
However, the company not only refused to take her to the hospital for treatment but also
rejected her request for sick leave. It also deducted 6 days from her wages on the pretext of her
Workers who complain or don't finish tasks on time or make mistakes are often struck by managers, the report adds. Or victims are made to stand all day for their transgressions.
Excessive overtime was also an abuse China Labor Watch identified. "...workers need to work 11 hours for 6 days a week and 26 to 28 days per month." Also, they need to stand for their entire shift, save for one 1-hour meal break.
HEG workers sometimes spot a product defect, but they aren't praised for their keen eye. Instead, they are fined for noticing problems with the Samsung merchandise. According to the rules, "Workers will be imposed a fine of 200 RMB ($31.7) each time they find a defect, and the fine was increased to 500 RMB ($79.4) beginning in March 2012. Evenmore, employees can face termination for finding defects."
The safety of the workers is also compromised at HEG. "The main chemical that workers are exposed to while working is ethyl alcohol. They only have one opportunity per day to get new protective gloves from the supervisor if the gloves are worn out," according to the report.
Samsung replied to the allegations, writing, 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. Samsung Electronics is a company held to the highest standards of working conditions and we try to maintain that at our facilities and the facilities of partner companies around the world.
Samsung joins Apple as the most recent electronics brand finding itself in the crosshairs of a report bashing its overseas manufacturing process. Apple's Foxconn factories were accused of multiple labor abuses, and they also made headlines for a rash of worker suicides.