Samsung promises to review Chinese labor practices

Samsung IFA 2012 Berlin Shin Jong-kyun

Apple isn’t the only major electronics manufacturer facing questions about the labor practices of its Chinese suppliers. South Korean electronics giant Samsung says it plans to inspect some 250 Chinese companies that supply components or manufacture its products to ensure no labor laws are being broken.

The announcement comes after Samsung announced results of an auditn into labor practices at an HEG Electronics facility in Huizhou, in southern China. Earlier this month, the U.S.-based human rights group China Labor Watch accused HEG Electronics of employing child laborers and exploiting student labor, claiming student labor makes up as much as 80 percent of HEG’s workforce, and that investigators believed as many as 50 to 100 child workers were being employed in various departments in the factory.

Samsung says its audit does not confirm China Labor Watch’s claims. According to Samsung, there are workers in the factory under age 18, they are all over 16 and are student workers or interns and therefore legal under Chinese law. Samsung says it was not able to identify any underage workers are the HEG site, although it notes the factory’s high turnover rate (some 30 percent per month) limited the extent of their audit.

Samsung did find other problems at the HEG Electronics facility, including potentially unsafe practices, improper safety measures, overtime in excess of nine hours per week, and a system of fins to punish workers for tardiness or absences.

“Samsung has demanded that HEG immediately improve its working conditions,” the company said in a statement. “If HEG fails to meet Samsung’s zero tolerance policy on child labor, the contract will be immediately severed.”

Samsung plans to conduct direct inspections of 105 Chinese companies that product goods solely for Samsung by the end of September, and conduct documentation reviews of an additional 144 suppliers by the end of the year. Samsung says it will require corrective action be taken for any violation of its policies; if a company continues to be found in violation of Samsung policies, Samsung will terminate the contract.

[Image: Samsung’s president Information Technology and Mobile Communication Shin Jong-kyun at IFA 2012 Berline, via Samsung.]