Samsung Electronics Co. plants and suppliers in China employed underage workers, forced them to work overtime and exposed them to unsafe conditions, a New York-based labor group said as it increased scrutiny on the world’s largest seller of mobile phones and TVs.
China Labor Watch discovered “severe labor abuses” at six factories owned and operated by Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung, and two facilities of its suppliers, the group said in a report dated yesterday. The violations include forced overtime work amounting to more than 100 hours a month, unpaid work and 11 to 12 hours of standing, it said.
The workers, also subject to “verbal and physical abuse,” don’t have any effective internal grievance channel, the group said. Labor advocates are widening their monitoring of electronics factories in Asia to Samsung, Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. after suicides at a China plant of Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn Technology Group in 2010 increased attention on working conditions.
“Labor violations aren’t restricted to Samsung and are a problem in the electronics industry,” Kevin Slaten, a spokesman for China Labor Watch, said in a Bloomberg TV interview today.
China Labor Watch is currently investigating a factory that makes products for companies including HP, Dell and Microsoft Corp., Li Qiang, a New York-based director at the group, said in a phone interview through a translator. The group also will recheck factories run by Samsung and its suppliers to determine whether improvements have been made, Li said.
“The treatment of Samsung’s Chinese factory workers is far from model,” according to the report. “The list of illegal and inhumane violations is long.”
The findings follow an August report from the group that said a Chinese assembler contracted by Samsung used child labor, prompting the Korean company to broaden inspections of its suppliers.
Samsung “frequently” checks its factories and the company isn’t aware of instances of hiring underage workers, James Chung, a Seoul-based spokesman, said by phone today.
The electronics maker has “zero tolerance” for child-labor violations at its suppliers and will stop doing business with any company found to hire minors, Chung said. The company is aware that some workers in China volunteer to work extra hours and will take “additional steps to re-evaluate our working hour practices,” he said, declining to comment on whether the company will raise wages.
Samsung’s labor audits on its contractors aren’t accurate because factory owners learn about the inspections in advance, Slaten said in the interview.
The eight plants investigated by CLW employed a combined 24,000 workers making mobile phones, DVD players, mobile displays and air conditioners, the report said. The base salary for workers at a printer factory owned by Samsung is about $250 a month, the report said.
The group said its investigators either posed as workers to enter the factories or interviewed workers outside.
China Labor Watch said last month that seven children younger than 16 were working in the factory of HEG Electronics (Huizhou) Co. that makes phones and DVD players for Samsung. Samsung conducted its own investigation and said this week it didn’t find any workers younger than 16.
Samsung said Sept. 3 it will conduct on-site inspections by the end of this month on all 105 Chinese companies that make products solely for the company. The company also plans to have the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, a Washington-based industry group, regularly check its own plants and all of its suppliers in China from 2013.
The EICC is a group monitoring industry supply chains, with electronics and technology companies as members. Its current board members include officials from International Business Machines Corp., Dell, HP and Intel Corp., according to its website.
Foxconn, the Apple supplier targeted by human-rights activists after the suicides, has cut working hours and improved safety at a faster pace than it was required, the Fair Labor Association said in a report last month.
Apple opened factories making its products to the FLA, becoming the first electronics company to join the Washington-based independent labor monitoring group.