Samsung released the findings of a four-week-long audit of its Chinese manufacturing units and has promised to make changes to rectify the labour abuse it exposed.
The internal audit of 105 Samsung’s units around China comes after the watchdog group China Labour Watch alleged that one of its suppliers, HEG Electronics, employed workers under the age of 16. Soon after the accusations in August, Samsung refuted the claim, saying that it has a "zero tolerance policy on child labour violations," and promised to hold an audit to ensure China's laws were not being violated.
Samsung has vowed to rectify labour issues in China
Though the audit found no instances of child labour in the factories, it did find other rules and regulations concerning labour laws being flouted. "The audit identified several instances of inadequate practices at the facilities, including overtime hours in excess of local regulations, management of supplier companies holding copies of labour contracts, and the imposition of a system of fines for lateness or absences," said Samsung in a statement yesterday.
The electronics giant has vowed to take corrective measures to eliminate these issues, ridding the factories of discrimination and fines, while increasing safety and health standards.
All suppliers have been asked by Samsung to adopt new hiring processes, claiming that they will terminate their contracts with suppliers who employ child labour. The suppliers have also been asked to "correct irregularities in labour contracts and distribute one copy to all employees” by the end of this year.
Other measures include providing safety equipment and sufficient training to use it, as well as managerial training on handling sexual harassment and abuse issues in the factories. Samsung has asked for hotlines to be set up for those who would like to lodge complaints anonymously. It is also researching and developing measures that will eliminate working hours beyond legal limits, by the end of 2014. For now, Samsung will require all suppliers to cap the working time of temporary workers at 30 percent of full-time employees. The Korean company said that arrangements will be made to compensate suppliers that have to purchase new equipment or hire new workers to make up for the loss of employee hours.
Samsung is reviewing 144 more suppliers in China and a report on it is expected at some time by the end of this year. Starting 2013, the company will monitor 249 more facilities through a third party audit company.
"Samsung takes concerns about working conditions in China seriously and, whenever an issue is identified, we take immediate and appropriate steps to correct it," the company said in its statement. "Our goal is to assess, improve, and continuously monitor every aspect of working conditions at Samsung supplier facilities to meet our own high standards."
Earlier this year, Apple too came under fire along with its suppliers Foxconn for breaking labour laws. Following a spate of critical reports detailing unsafe factory practices at Foxconn plants that triggered worker deaths and suicides, Apple earier this year fallowed the US based Fair Labour Association (FLA) to conduct a high-profile probe of Foxconn's factories in China.
The FLA recommended several changes to Foxconn's policies and workflow, which Foxconn agreed to implement. In late June and early July, the FLA returned to chart Foxconn's progress thus far, and found improvements.