Samsung finds no child labor, promises fixes to supply chain

The company says that it found "several instances of inadequate practices," including excessive overtime and a fine policy for lateness or absences.

Don Reisinger
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
2 min read
The Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone. Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung has released the results of a four-week audit of 105 suppliers involved in the production of its devices across China.

According to the company, the Samsung audit team was comprised of 121 employees tasked with ensuring that the company's suppliers were compliant with local laws and its own regulations. The company's auditors found no instances of child labor -- a major concern of watchdogs -- but did discover instances where rules and regulations were violated.

"The audit identified several instances of inadequate practices at the facilities, including overtime hours in excess of local regulations, management of supplier companies holding copies of labor contracts, and the imposition of a system of fines for lateness or absences," Samsung said today in a statement.

Samsung came under fire back in August when watchdog group China Labor Watch charged one of its suppliers, HEG Electronics, with employing people under the age of 16. Soon after, Samsung refuted the claim, saying that it has a "zero tolerance policy on child labor violations." The company promised to hold an audit to ensure China's laws were not being violated.

China Labor Watch has long been an outspoken critic of working conditions in China. The organization has argued that in too many cases, factories hire underage workers and force them to work excessive hours.

Foxconn, which supplies components to Apple and Microsoft among many other companies, is perhaps best known for its issues with industry watchdogs. After a Fair Labor Association inspection found that Foxconn had employees in Apple supply facilities who were working excessively, the company promised to modify its practices. Foxconn also agreed to increase wages. At last check, the company has been making some progress.

In addition to addressing the issue of overtime, Samsung says that it has ensured that all of its suppliers adopt a new hiring process in which child labor is not allowed. The company has also requested suppliers use an electronic device that detects a fake ID.

By the end of the year, Samsung wants suppliers to fix contract discrepancies, eliminate fines when employees are absent or late, and open hotlines where workers can anonymously report abuses.

To address long working hours, Samsung says it is "researching and developing measures that will eliminate hours beyond legal limits by the end of 2014."

Samsung says that it's reviewing 144 more supplier companies in China, which it expects to be completed by the end of the year. Starting in the new year, Samsung will be monitoring 249 supplier facilities through a third-party audit company.

"Samsung takes concerns about working conditions in China seriously and, whenever an issue is identified, we take immediate and appropriate steps to correct it," the company said today in a statement. "Our goal is to assess, improve, and continuously monitor every aspect of working conditions at Samsung supplier facilities to meet our own high standards."