More labor abuse in Samsung phone factory


NEW YORK – Based on an in-depth undercover investigation, China Labor Watch (CLW) has published a report on the labor conditions at a Samsung cell phone supplier, revealing labor rights violations that include $84,000 of monthly unpaid overtime wages, up to 148 hours of overtime per month, intense rates of work that have workers assembling one cell phone case every four seconds, regular verbal abuse by management, forcing workers to work barefoot, fines imposed on workers, and insufficient safety training and safety measures.

In September 2013, CLW sent an investigator into Samkwang Science and Technology in Dongguan, China to work on the production line for two weeks. Producing cell phone covers, phone screens, and other parts for Samsung, the Samkwang factory employs over 5,000 workers. This investigation uncovered at least 23 ethical and legal violations, each of which is listed in the beginning of the investigative report linked below.

This investigation follows a 2012 CLW probe of eleven Chinese factories producing for Samsung that revealed excessively long working hours, exhausting rates of work, child workers, insufficient safety training, unpaid work, blank labor contracts, and more. In response, Samsung promised to improve conditions throughout its Chinese supply chain.

But based on CLW’s most recent investigation of the Samkwang plant, labor abuse has persisted at Samsung supplier factories.

A typical worker at Samkwang is hired through a dispatch labor company that charges her extra fees just to get a job. During the application process, she will be asked twice whether or not she is pregnant, as Samkwang will not hire pregnant women and does not provide maternity insurance. Despite paying for a mandatory pre-work physical exam, she will not receive the results of the exam.

After being hired, our worker will only receive two hours of training, 22 hours short of the legal minimum, before going work on the production line, where she will work on 12-hour shifts for six or seven days per week. Before her daily shift begins, she must attend 10 to 15 minutes of unpaid meetings. When in the production facility, she must remain barefoot despite the cold, hard factory floor and filthy restroom floor. She is required to produce at a very fast pace, assembling one Samsung phone cover every four seconds. During this time, she cannot take her eyes or hands off of the products as she constantly hears the sounds of line leaders shouting at workers. If she is not meeting the high output quota, she will be verbally assaulted by her supervisor who will tell her that she is too slow and call her a “bitch”. After the shift ends, our worker must again attend 10 or more minutes of unpaid meetings in which the supervisor or Korean management will continue putting workers down.

At Samkwang, the treatment of workers is so poor that production lines will arrange four to 10 extra workers on the line in order to fill in when others get fed up with the abuse and leave in the middle of the day.

Despite such despicable treatment, Samkwang workers, just as in other Samsung-producing factories probed by CLW, lack any effective grievance channel. There are no worker representatives, union, or worker hotline, and any complaints dropped in the opinion box are answered with neglect.

In the third quarter of 2013, Samsung’s revenue reached $53.9 billion, earning $9.4 in profit. Despite this, Samsung has not lived up to the commitments it made to improve labor abuse in its supply chain and respect workers’ legal rights. On top of its social auditing system, Samsung should encourage stronger unions and establish worker hotlines in all factories making its products.

Download the full English report.

Download the full Chinese report.

CLW has also uploaded YouTube videos from Samkwang of a Samsung phone production line, unpaid overtime meetings, and a Korean manager lecturing barefoot workers.

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