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Samsung acts on child labor allegations, suspends business with supplier

Samsung has suspended business with one of its suppliers just days after US-based workers’ rights group China Labor Watch (CLW) said it’d found evidence of child labor at the site.

The Korean tech giant said in a statement released Sunday night that following its own subsequent investigation, it had decided to “temporarily suspend business with the factory in question” after finding evidence of suspected child labor at the worksite, adding, “The decision was made in accordance with Samsung’s zero tolerance policy on child labor.”

Samsung said that as part of its pledge against child labor it “routinely conducts inspections to monitor its suppliers in China to ensure they follow the commitment.”

Slip-up

That may be so, but the tech company was left red-faced last week when the CLW’s findings appeared to contradict the contents of its own annual Sustainability Report [pdf], which was released at the start of the month.

The report, part of which included information collected during independent inspections at 100 Samsung suppliers, made no mention of underage hiring, though did highlight other serious issues, including worker exposure to hazardous chemicals, a failure to comply with rules on overtime hours, and inadequate safety equipment.

CLW revealed last week that its own investigation had turned up evidence of child labor at the Shinyang Electronics factory, a Samsung supplier located in Dongguan, Guangdong province.

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

It claimed some suppliers, like the one in Shinyang, would relax the rules for hiring “in order to adapt to Samsung’s demands.”

Damage limitation

In an effort to limit damage to its reputation, Samsung has moved quickly to exclude the factory from its roster of suppliers, while at the same time claiming that three inspections at the Shinyang factory – the most recent of which took place on June 25 – revealed no cases of child labor.

The Seoul-based tech giant said that if it concludes that Shinyang Electronics did indeed hire children illegally, it will “permanently halt business” with the company.

Of course, Samsung isn’t the only electronics firm to run into problems with its suppliers’ work practices. Rival Apple, for example, has also had its fair share of issues to deal with when it comes to the huge network of China-based factories assembling its products, though recent reports suggest it’s making progress in ensuring employment rules are adhered to more strictly.

[via The Verge]

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