Samsung Takes Action On Labor Conditions in China

IT Management

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As Samsung has increased its share of the mobile devices market and emerged as the main competitor to Apple, increased scrutiny has also been placed on the Korean company's manufacturing processes.

In August, human rights organization China Labor Watch published an investigative report into a factory that supplies components to Samsung, accusing the factory of hiring children under the age of 16. In September, another China Labor Watch report contained more allegations of underage workers at several Samsung factories in China, as well as forced overtime and unsafe working conditions.

At the time, Samsung stated that it would conduct its own reviews of Chinese manufacturing facilities and re-evaluate its working hour practices. Today, it seems the review process is over and the company will be taking action to ensure that its manufacturing processes are humane.

Samsung today announced that its four-week audit of 105 suppliers found "several instances of inadequate practices," though no underage workers were identified. The company found overtime hours "in excess of local regulations" and workers being fined for lateness or absences.

In response, Samsung is putting in place new hiring policies and overtime practices for its suppliers. Though Samsung did not find evidence of child labor, the new hiring process will require all employee candidates to be interviewed in person and will require suppliers to use electronics to detect fake IDs.

By the end of 2012, Samsung has committed to forcing suppliers to distribute labor contracts to employees; abolish fine systems; provide adequate safety equipment and training; and provide more management training on sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse. In addition, hotlines are being deployed at the subsidiaries for employees to make anonymous reports of labor violations or inhumane treatment.

It seems that excessive working hours are still going to be the norm at Samsung factories, though, at least for a while. Though the company stated that it has "identified the need for initiatives to reduce employee overtime as a top priority," working hours that extend beyond legal limits won't be eliminated until 2014. According to Samsung, plans are being ironed out for each individual supplier.