Samsung’s component supplier is accused of exploiting underage workers

August 7, 2012
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    Unless the name of the device starts with the word Nexus and ends with a Q, it is likely that your gadgets are made and assembled in the Far East. Then again, some good parts of the Nexus Q are not really made in America.

    In the past, there were some horror stories about Foxconn, one of the world’s biggest electronic components manufacturers, whose major clients include Acer, Apple, and Amazon, and how they mistreated their workers. But the region is brimming with countless numbers of factories operated by lesser known firms that Foxconn may not be the worst perpetrator.

    Human rights group China Labor Watch is trying to raise the issue of unethical labor practices at HEG Electronics, a major supplier for Samsung, Motorola and LG.

    According to the group, HEG Electronic employs underage workers (under 16 years of age) to work at its factory. Initial investigation put the number down at seven, but later research reveals that up to 100 underage workers are possibly being employed by HEC, earning significantly less than older workers there.

    The underage workers reportedly only receive a monthly take home pay of 750 yuan, which translates to about $120. The average minimum wage in China is 950 yuan, which means HEG is potentially breaking yet another labor law, one that’s admittedly not being forcefully enforced by the government. Other violations uncovered, as stated on China Labor Watch’s blog, include:

    • Discrimination based on sex, age, and individuality during the hiring process.
    • Excessive working time. The workers toil 11 hours per day (including 3-5 hours of forced overtime), 6 days per week, 26-28 days per month. Their attendance system is also defective and unfair, negatively influencing the physical and mental health of the student and child workers.
    • Legal problems exist in issues regarding the labor contract, remuneration system, and reward and punishment system of the company. There are extremely strict punishments, and the workers are frequently fined.
    • Night shift workers are only given time to eat one meal during the 11-hour work shift. The normal meal break is 30-40 minutes long.
    • The workers always work under dangerous conditions, and work injuries are common.

    Compared to Foxconn that employs hundreds of thousands of workers, HEG Electronics is relatively minuscule – as it only employs 2,000 workers within a single factory. But size shouldn’t matter when it comes to pointing out the truth about the possible exploitation of young workers.

    With Samsung’s name being dragged into the controversy, the Korean company told Bloomberg that on-site inspections at HEG Electronics has been done on two separate occasions, where they found no irregularities. Following the finding by China Labor Watch, Samsung said that “[It] will conduct another field survey at the earliest possible time to ensure our previous inspections have been based on full information and take appropriate measures to correct any problems that may surface.”

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