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Samsung supplier factory found to use child labor, watchdog says

But Samsung says allegations China-based supplier HEG Electronics employes children under the age of 16 at its facility are false.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Updated at 11:10 a.m. PT, with Samsung denying allegations and again at 1:50 p.m. PT with further comment from China Labor Watch.

Samsung and Lenovo are under scrutiny on Thursday after a report surfaced from a China labor watchdog claiming that children were working at a facility that contributes to the companies' product.

China Labor Watch, an organization that investigates Chinese production facilities to ensure proper working conditions and regulations, issued a statement Thursday saying that HEG Electronics employed over 10 children under the age of 16 at a facility in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. The youngest child was 14 years old, according to China Labor Watch. The facility is used to produce components for Samsung and Lenovo, according to the organization.

Samsung, however, said in response to the allegations from the watchdog group, it conducted an onsite investigation on the production line in question, including one-on-one interviews, and found no child or student workers there.

The watchdog group keeps tabs on working conditions in Chinese factories. China Labor Watch

"We immediately notified our findings to CLW and also proposed that Samsung and CLW conduct a joint onsite investigation for more precise verification. Furthermore, we proposed briefing Samsung's recruitment process that includes ID verification and face to face interviews," a Samsung spokeswoman said.

"We find it regrettable that CLW issued the allegations today without any mention of our statement," the spokeswoman added. "At Samsung Electronics, we deeply care about the health and safety of all our employees and employees at our suppliers and strictly maintain a zero tolerance policy on child labor."

Li Qiang, CLW's founder and executive director, responded to Samsung's statement by saying their were confidentiality clauses associated with Samsung's statement so it held off mentioning it. And CLW was disappointed Samsung didn't verify the IDs of the reported child workers. "HEG had already dismissed these child workers before Samsung arrived," Qiang said.

Samsung has been facing increased scrutiny over child labor at some of the facilities owned by its suppliers. Over the last couple of years, in fact, it has been hit with several complaints against suppliers that have allegedly used child labor. Just last month, Samsung announced that it would sever ties with one of its suppliers, Shinyang Electronics, after word came that the company was allegedly violating child labor regulations.

"Following the investigation, Samsung decided to temporarily suspend business with the factory in question as it found evidences of suspected child labor at the worksite," the company said at the time. "The decision was made in accordance with Samsung's zero tolerance policy on child labor."

In 2012, HEG Electronics was charged by China Labor Watch with violating child labor regulations in its facilities. Samsung at that time promised to address the issue with HEG and "correct child labor and other violations throughout its supply chain." The latest investigation, which was conducted over the last several weeks, shows that "conditions at HEG failed to improve, they have worsened," China Labor Watch said.

In this most recent investigation, China Labor Watch found that in addition to underage labor, HEG had over 100 student workers working without overtime or a night-shift subsidy.

"CLW has contacted a number of student workers directly by phone," the organization wrote Thursday. "Some made Samsung products at HEG while others made Lenovo products. One of those was a 19-year old female college student who told CLW Executive Director Li Qiang that while working on the Samsung production line at HEG, she worked four hours of overtime a day in addition to the normal eight hour workday, but she paid 8.5 RMB ($1.38) per hour for all work even though Chinese law requires overtime pay at 1.5 or 2 times normal wages."