Samsung’s issues with working conditions and human rights at its factories have popped up once again. This time those problems take form in the shape of underage workers.
In speaking with The New York Times, the young girls—aged 14 and 15—explained how they came to work for the company’s Dongguan factory.
The girls said that the “labor dispatch system” work on a kind of seasonal schedule where workers are brought in during the summer to meet demand for goods into the U.S and European holiday season. This system has roots in poor areas and can draw workers from small villages regularly.
It was late June that Samsung did a sweep of its factories, but turned up nothing pointing to underage workers. The girls stated that they used falsified documents to obtain work with them. They said they were paid $1.20 per hour–$.25 shy of the average since they were hired by a kind of “job office” which finds work for children and others.
It’s worth mentioning that 16 is the legal age in China and Samsung insists that no one under 18 be hired. The company has gone as far as using facial recognition to match workers to their official government IDs to make sure things are legit. According to China Labor Watch’s report, the girls and possibly other underage workers were allowed to go around the ID checking measure.
Considering the way this relationship works according to the girls interviewed, it would look as though the facial recognition approach and investigative policies of Samsung are more for show–a means to get agencies to give them some relief.
It’s fairly easy for a company to do its own internal investigation into something and just pull up something minor that won’t generate significant negative press as not to look suspiciously squeaky clean. This is especially the case when a company is plagued with so many problems that a hard 180 seems unlikely in a short period of time.
In February there was the issue with Samsung and 2007 death of 23-year old Hwang Yu-mi from leukemia due to chemical exposure becoming news again. This death and other related incidents from a Samsung’s Suwon factory resulted in a film which Samsung attempted to stop the publicity for several news publications. Samsung also found out it had serious problems in eight of its Chinese factories back in 2012.
The nature of those problems were long work hours, unpaid overtime that reached 100 hours on occasion, rare off days, and child labor. Since there wasn’t an actual HR department where workers could field concerns they went unchecked until a labor group investigated the concerns.
This time around, the concerns are the same, but include not giving labor contracts as is required by the government.
SOURCE: The New York Times