Samsung supplier accused of using child labor, again

A watchdog group alleges several children work in assembly lines at a factory that makes Samsung's mobile phone covers and parts. The company says it's looking into these claims.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Samsung's Galaxy S5. Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung is once again on the defensive about allegations of child labor at one of its suppliers.

US activist group China Labor Watch released a new report (PDF) on Thursday that details children working in assembly lines at a factory called Shinyang Electronics in Dongguan, China. Samsung has responded to the report saying it will investigate the accusations, according to Reuters.

"We are urgently looking into the latest allegations and will take appropriate measures in accordance with our policies to prevent any cases of child labor in our suppliers," Samsung told Reuters.

In its report, China Labor Watch alleges that several of the seasonal workers in the Dongguan plant are minors who work 11 hours a day, 7 days a week, without overtime pay. In addition to child labor, China Labor Watch claims other labor abuses took place in the factory, including excessive overtime, lack of worker safety, and poor living conditions. Shinyang Electronics is one of Samsung's suppliers for mobile phone covers and parts.

These allegations contradict recent audits looking into child labor at Samsung's supplier factories. For example, in Samsung's annual sustainability report published last month, it said third-party audits of 200 suppliers in 2013 found no instances of child labor.

"Samsung's social responsibility reports are just advertisement," China Labor Watch's executive director Li Qiang said in a statement. "Samsung has put its energy into audits and the production of these reports, but these things are meant to appease investors and don't have any real value for workers. Samsung's monitoring system is ineffective and has failed to bring about improvements for workers."

This isn't the first time Samsung has been accused of child labor and poor working conditions. Several times in 2012, the company was accused of partnering with manufacturers that allegedly employed child workers. It was also accused of requiring employees to work overtime, along with other labor abuses at some of its own factories. The company was also sued by Brazil's Ministry of Labor and Employment in 2013 for allegedly violating labor laws in the South American country.

In the face of all of these accusations, Samsung has maintained that it abides by all labor and human rights laws in each region it operates and strictly enforces bans on child labor, forced labor, and workplace discrimination.

"Samsung takes concerns about working conditions at its suppliers very seriously," a Samsung spokesperson told CNET. "We will continue to strive toward full supplier compliance with our policies and undertake corrective actions for any observed violations during our monthly third party monitoring. If any suppliers are found to have not made progress, Samsung will constantly call for corrective actions to ensure the issue is resolved in the shortest time possible. Our goal is to assess, improve, and continuously monitor every aspect of our working conditions to meet our own high standards."

Updated at 7:10 p.m. PT with comment from Samsung spokesperson.