China Labor Watch (CLW) has carried out over a dozen investigations of labor conditions at China-based Samsung factories and Samsung supplier factories since 2012. These investigations have uncovered labor violations including unpaid overtime wages, more than 200 monthly overtime hours, abuse of labor dispatch and student workers, occupational safety concerns, a lack of social insurance, and more.
One of the most serious violations has been the employment of child labor in Samsung’s supplier factories. In August 2012, CLW first exposed the use of child workers in a Samsung supplier in Huizhou called HEG. Despite Samsung’s public statement that it found no child labor after subsequent inspection, near the end of the end of 2012 CLW once again uncovered more child workers in another Huizhou-based Samsung supplier called HTNS.
Before publishing the HTNS investigative report, CLW provided information on three child workers at that factory to Samsung. Samsung sent a team of inspectors to the factory to follow-up. The day that the inspectors arrived, two of the child workers were suddenly let go. The one remaining girl met with Samsung’s team. Despite looking nothing like her ID—which belong to another person called Liu Tiantian—Samsung denied that the girl was a child worker.
In the second half of 2013, CLW was able to track down the real Liu Tiantian, who confirmed that her ID had been lost in 2012 before the time that it was obtained by the HTNS child worker. CLW sent a letter to Samsung in December 2013 detailing the results of this follow-up investigation. Along with this letter, CLW sent a photo of Liu Tiantian herself taken during the interview with CLW.
New revelations of child labor: Samsung’s ineffective auditing system
In June this year, CLW sent an undercover investigator into the Shinyang Electronics factory. By just the third day of the investigation, CLW had uncovered five child workers (under 16), finding evidence of even more in the subsequent days.
Around the same time as CLW’s investigation was underway, Samsung published its 2014 sustainability report titled “Global Harmony”. Within, Samsung says that it inspected working conditions at 200 suppliers in 2013 and “no instances of child labor were found” (p. 67-68).
After allegedly inspecting hundreds of Chinese suppliers, Samsung did not find one child worker. Yet in just one Samsung supplier factory, CLW has uncovered several children employed without labor contracts, working 11 hours per day and only being paid for 10 of those hours.
CLW’s investigation again provides evidence for Samsung’s flawed auditing system and social responsibility reports are meant to appease investors and lack any real value for the improving conditions of workers in Samsung’s supply chain.
Samsung’s code of conduct and promises to improve labor conditions are only as credible as the real improvements for workers making Samsung products. But with serious and persistent labor violations, Samsung’s social commitments seem like nothing more than false advertisement meant to bolster its image as a responsible corporate citizen.
In reality, and as will be once again demonstrated in this report, Samsung and its supplier continue to profit from child labor, underage workers, excessive working hours, low and unpaid wages, and poor occupational safety.
Labor violations at Shinyang Electronics
This report is based on the result of undercover and off-site investigations in and around Dongguan Shinyang Electronic Co. Ltd. (hereafter “Shinyang”), a supplier of Samsung cell phone covers and parts. The undercover investigator was employed by Shinyang as a normal production line worker, experiencing the life of a Shinyang worker while making observations and conducting more than 30 worker interviews. The off-site investigation included interviews with 15 present and former workers of Shinyang.
CLW’s probe into Shinyang revealed 15 sets of labor violations, many of which are violations of Chinese law:
- Shinyang employs child labor (under 16 years of age), in violation of China’s Labor Law. CLW has confirmed at least five child workers, and we suspect that many others in the factory are also child workers. These children, without a labor contract, do the same work for the same long night-shift hours and at the same intensity as adult workers but are paid one-third less. Child labor are only paid for 10 hours of work a day despite working for 11 hours. This situation also meets International Labor Organization’s definition of child labor, including work that is mentally or physically dangerous or harmful to children.
- Workers do not receive any pre-job safety training in total disregard of the 24 hours required by China’s Provisions on Safety Training of Production and Operation Entities. This is despite coming in contact with harmful chemicals, such as industrial alcohol and thinners.
- Workers do not necessarily receive protective equipment, such as gloves or masks, from the factory, only receiving equipment after requesting for it.
- Discriminatory hiring. Shinyang restricts the hiring of male applicants.
- The factory employs hundreds of temporary workers who are paid a flat hourly rate, regardless of overtime hours worked, in violation of Chinese labor regulations.
- Shinyang does not purchase social insurance for temporary workers in violation of legal regulations and does not fully purchase insurance for other workers.
- Shinyang employs many minors (under 18 years of age). These are typically students who enter the factory as temp workers. The factory does not provide special protections for minors or child workers.
- Workers are made to sign blank labor contracts, in violation of China’s Labor Contract Law, unaware of the terms of their employment. A completed contract is given to them only a month after being employed.
- The factory requires workers in the probation period to apply for resignation seven days’ before leaving the company, but Labor Contract Law only requires three days’ notice.
- Shinyang requires management approval for an employee to resign. But according to Article 37 of Labor Contract Law, a worker need only give 30 days’ notice; approval is not required.
- Workers are made to work 11 hours per day, as many as 30 days per month, accumulating more than 120 hours of overtime, more than three times in excess of China’s legal limit of 36 hours.
- In order to hide excessive overtime hours from inspection of documents, Shinyang lists the overtime pay for all overtime beyond 80 hours as “benefits” on workers’ pay stubs.
- Shinyang institutes a number of broad restrictions that establishes the pretext to punish workers for almost any behavior.
- There is no union at Shinyang that could represent workers’ interests.
- Dormitories are hot, crowded, and lack hot water.