Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Samsung promises change after poor labor conditions discovered at Chinese suppliers

If you think that Apple is the only company that has labor and worker rights issues in its Chinese manufacturing plants, you'd be so, so wrong. With so many companies using cheap Chinese labor, there are bound to be more, and on Monday, Samsung -- Apple's biggest mobile device rival -- was forced to admit its own.

Samsung's corrective action is in response to claim by worker rights group China Labor Watch in September. CLW said that the South Korean giant had violated Chinese worker condition rules. Among the complaints were the denial of basic labor rights, underage workers, and overwork.

Samsung performed its own audit, and determined that the CLW's report was on target. Samsung audit of 105 suppliers in China was conducted over a four-week period. The company denied that it found any "instance of child labor," however.

Samsung said changes are coming. The company said that it has demanded that all of its suppliers immediately adopt a new hiring process to prevent any instances of underage workers. It added that any contracts with suppliers who are found using child labor would be terminated.

Also, Samsung said that it is developing procedures that will eliminate overwork (beyond legal limits) by the end of 2014.

Although this new story involves its chief rival, in late January, the New York Times published an expose on working conditions in Chinese factories. In the aftermath, Apple became the first company to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a nonprofit consisting of member companies, universities and other groups that has as its mission addressing poor labor conditions.

After the FLA performed an audit requested by Apple, the company and its key supplier, Foxconn (a division of Hon Hai) agreed to a number of changes at the plants, including reduced overtime and modifications to other company policies.

Despite that promise, just three months later, another Foxconn worker committed suicide.  In 2010, both Apple and Foxconn were harangued after a series of suicides.

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