Samsung execs fly out to probe child labor claims

Samsung is promising to investigate allegations of child labor at one of its Chinese suppliers.

Campaign group China Labor Watch (CLW) says its investigators found seven children working in one department at HEG Electronics, which makes phones, DVDs, stereo equipment and MP3 players for Samsung.

In all, it estimates, there are probably between 50 and 100 children under the age of 16 working at the plant, which has a staff of around 2,000 – with many carrying out physically dangerous tasks.

The fixed assets and important equipment of the factory, says CLW, are provided by Samsung – indeed, each assembly line carries a label that reads ‘fixed asset of Samsung’. However, HEG also works for Motorola and LG.

The report follows CLW’s widely-reported allegations of poor working practices at Apple’s Far Eastern suppliers, including the now-notorious Foxconn.

However, says CLW, “Working conditions at HEG are well below those general conditions in Apple’s supplier factories”.

The children at HEG were working under the same conditions as adults, but were only paid 70 percent as much. In addition, discrimination was widespread, working time was excessive and punishment systems were harsh. Work injuries were common, it says.

“The precise number of child laborers throughout the factory is unknown because our investigators had limited contact with workers in other departments,” it says.  “But the company has clearly violated Chinese labor laws.”

Samsung says it’s sending a delegation from its Korean headquarters today to launch an investigation. But, it adds: “Samsung Electronics has conducted two separate on-site inspections on HEG’s working conditions this year but found no irregularities on those occasions.