Samsung eyes reforms after its probe found a supplier hired child workers
South Korean giant vows tighter hiring processafter errant practice found at mainland factory
Samsung Electronics, the world's largest smartphone maker, vowed to "strengthen the hiring process" at its production facilities after the South Korean company suspended a mainland-based supplier suspected of using child labour.
The action against Dongguan Shinyang Electronics, a subsidiary of Korean components manufacturer Shinyang Engineering, was announced by Samsung yesterday, following a probe that was prompted by allegations last week by workers' rights watchdog China Labour Watch (CLW).
Samsung said it had decided to "temporarily suspend business with the factory in question as it found evidence of suspected child labour at the worksite". It said it observed a "zero-tolerance policy on child labour".
"It is unfortunate that the allegation surfaced despite Samsung's efforts to prevent child labour at its suppliers," the company said.
It also said routine inspections were conducted at its suppliers on the mainland. It conducted the audits at Shinyang Electronics in the past year, the latest of which was concluded on June 25. "No cases of child labour were found during these audits."
However, an investigation by New York-based CLW found that Shinyang Electronics employed several children without labour contracts, working them 11 hours a day and only paying them for 10 of those hours. The revelation comes nearly two years after CLW first reported child exploitation at a Samsung supplier factory.
The consumer charity Green America began circulating a petition critical of Samsung soon after CLW released its report. Its campaigns director Elizabeth O'Connell said: "Samsung needs to take immediate action in this facility and others."
Samsung said it would "permanently halt business with the supplier" should its investigation find that Shinyang Electronics hired children illegally.
Apple, Samsung and other global brands with manufacturing ties to the mainland are regularly beset by reports of labour violations.
"The supply chain [on the mainland] is very deep and very broad, and it is difficult to maintain tight control of operations in places where there is limited respect for rules and regulations," Bernstein Research senior analyst Alberto Moel said yesterday. "The effort is being made, but the problem is much bigger than the resources put against it."
Gene Cao, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, said some small contract manufacturers used child labour to remain competitive