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Samsung says its manufacturer doesn't use child labor

Investigators for Samsung find that all employees at its manufacturer's factory are of legal working age. Some employees work overtime, however, and have no access to medical clinics.

The Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone. Josh Miller/CNET

After Samsung was criticized last month for partnering with an electronics manufacturer that allegedly employed child workers, it announced today that all employees at the manufacturing factory are of a legal working age.

"Samsung holds itself and its supplier companies to the highest standards," Samsung said in a statement. "We have a zero tolerance policy on child labor violations and are therefore conducting field audits to ensure all our facilities in China, whether supplier facilities or fully-owned facilities, are compliant with applicable labor laws and Samsung's labor and employment right policies."

When watchdog group China Labor Watch released a report in August that said Samsung's partner, HEG Electronics, employed at least seven children under the age of 16, the tech company sent a team of investigators to China to determine whether the supplier was guilty of child labor abuses.

The investigators found that some student workers and interns were under 18 but older than 16, which means their employment is legal in China. Apparently, the investigators didn't find anyone under the age of 16. The investigators did discover that some employees worked overtime "beyond local regulations," were fined for being late, and did not have access to medical clinics.

HEG assembles Samsung DVD players and mobile phones and according to the report by China Labor Watch child labor was prevalent in its factory and children face the "same harsh conditions" as adults but are paid less. The report also said that all 2,000 employees were obliged to work between 11 and 13 hours per day and are only given a 40-minute break to eat.

China Labor Watch published a similar report on Apple's iPad and iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn. The watchdog accused of Foxconn of creating abysmal labor standards, leading several workers committed suicide. These accusations led to Apple bringing in the Fair Labor Association earlier this year to audit the manufacturer's facilities. The FLA found a host of issues with working conditions, including excess overtime and low wages. Foxconn agreed with the FLA to reduce hours and increase pay for its employees.

Samsung's investigators will continue to survey all of the 105 Chinese companies that solely manufacture its products throughout September. The company also plans to instate new guidelines and stricter codes of conduct for its manufacturers.

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

CNET contacted Samsung for more information. We'll update the story when we hear back.