Investigation finds that child labor and worker abuse is a common practice at Samsung factories

It’s not just Apple. Samsung, too, is taking advantage of cheap child labor who put long hours into someone else’s dream. According to a scathing report titled “Samsung Factory Exploiting Child Labor” and put together by the members of China Labor Watch (CWL), a New York-based non-government organization founded by labor activist Li Qiang, the practice of hiring child labor is “prevalent” at factories run by HEG Electronics, which assembles cell phones, DVDs, stereo equipment and music players for Samsung…

PatentlyApple has more:

The report went on to state that CLW’s research indicated that student laborers amount to 80% of the total workforce in the factory. During their follow up investigations, their investigators suspected that there were a large number of child laborers in other departments of the factory, estimating that there may be 50 to 100 children working there.

It gets worse:

These children were working under the same harsh conditions as adult workers, but were paid only 70% of the wages when compared with the formal employees. Moreover, these child workers were often required to carry-out dangerous tasks that resulted in injury.

The top image shows one of the injured Samsung factory workers.

These kids should be in school rather than work 13-hour shifts.

Bloomberg first warned back in August that an undercover investigator found cases of worker abuse at Samsung factories. Moreover, HEG, one of Samsung’s biggest suppliers, allegedly was hiring Chinese children under the age of 16, forcing them to work unreasonable hours, prompting CLW to tell Bloomberg that ”the company has clearly violated Chinese labor laws”, warning that “a serious light needs to be shined on these issues”.

Apparently Samsung forced factory workers to work 11 and 13 hours each day, with a 40 minute lunch break. The report goes on to describe dormitory areas and worker meals as “disgusting”.

Samsung hired Intertek, an international auditing firm to dispute CLW’s own investigation.

However, as PatentlyApple stated, CLW’s investigation showed that some of Intertek’s auditors have “accepted bribery from factories in exchange for letting the firm pass audits despite not meeting requirements”.

A September 122-page analysis of eight Samsung plants where it has a majority stake ranging from 60 to 100 percent found that “the workers have to ask for permission from the team leaders when they want to drink water or use the washroom during work”.

The entire production building prohibits its workers from wearing shoes. All the workers have to wear socks or shoe covers when entering the building.

Previously, the restroom was equipped with slippers, but the investigator only once found a pair of slippers in the restroom during working hours, meaning workers have to go to the restroom with bare feet or socks.

The packaging department is especially problematic.

The Packaging department requires workers to use ethyl alcohol to wipe cell phone covers but doesn’t provide the necessary protective gear such as mask or gloves to the workers. The windows in the workshop are all closed, causing poor ventilation.

The conditions are grim.

The quota is 1000 units per hour and if the production number isn’t met, longer overtime hours will be required to finish it, and these extra overtime hours will not be calculated in the worker’s wages.

And what happens if the workers don’t accept overtime arrangements?

If the workers’ request for leave is not permitted or workers don’t work overtime as the rules stipulate, they will be punished with absenteeism and three days of wages will be deducted.

Of course, it’s not just Apple or Samsung (though Samsung appears to be at a point where Apple was years ago).

I’d bet my shirt that an audit (better yet, an undercover investigation) of any other supplier and factory churning out shiny gadgets for Silicon Valley gadget makers would find similar, if not worse, cases of child labor and worker abuse.

That’s not to say we should sit on the sidelines, but I fear there’s not enough willingness to address the situation.

Apple only responded with greater scrutiny of its supply chain and wage increases when big media cornered club Cupertino with these issues.

Perhaps it’s now Samsung’s turn to feel some of the hate of the general public, who just cannot comprehend how big companies can pay billions to Asian contractors, yet failing to see their partners treat workers assembling the products with dignity and respect.

It’s just appalling, regardless of the company involved.

Looks like the case for The New York Times’s iEconomy series, no?