A labor rights group said it has uncovered evidence that a Samsung supplier employs underage workers, among other abuses.
China Labor Watch today said that an HTNS Shenzhen Co. factory that assembles Samsung cell phones employed at least three girls under the age of 16. The group noted that the discovery came just two weeks after Samsung said it didn't find any child workers while auditing this factory in September.
"Treated the same as adult workers, these three girls work overtime hours in excess of 13 hours per day and are paid overtime wages below the legal standard," the group said. The monthly overtime hours of one girl surpassed 150 hours.
Other abuses CLW said it uncovered at the factory -- which employs 1,100 workers -- included forced overtime, forced labor, subminimum overtime wages, crude personnel management, hiring discrimination, safety training that doesn't satisfy legal standards, the inability of workers to resign, and heavy use of dispatch labor.
CLW said it notified Samsung about the girls, and the Korean company sent personnel to speak with them. But as of today, two of the girls no longer work at HTNS, preventing Samsung from contacting them.
"Investigators of CLW have discovered child labor in other factories that produce for Samsung as well," CLW said. "Samsung must not allow such labor violations in its supply chain. It should put measures in place immediately to ensure that no more child workers will be involved in any part of the production or assembly process of Samsung products."
The condition of workers in the electronics industry has come under intense focus in recent months. Apple, Samsung, and many other large tech companies have faced fire over the treatment of the people building their phones, tablets, and other gadgets. As a result, the companies have pledged to do more to prevent the abuses. Apple even has said it plans to make more of its products in the U.S.
We've contacted Samsung and will update this story when we hear back.
Update, December 15 at 9:15 a.m.: Samsung posted an announcement Saturday saying the workers in question were of legal age. Here's the text of the company's post:
Regarding Recent Allegations that HTNS Shenzhen Hired an Underage Worker in China
Ninety percent of Samsung's parts are supplied in-house by our own manufacturing facilities and Samsung offers world-class working conditions throughout its global network of such in-house manufacturing facilities, complying with international labor standards in all regions in which we operate.
With regard to the small share of parts that are supplied by external suppliers, we are moving as fast as possible to address the problems that have been identified from our own investigation.
Samsung holds itself and its supplier companies to the highest standards and maintains a zero tolerance policy on child labor. We have confirmed that there are no underage workers employed at our supplier, HTNS Shenzhen Co., Ltd.
Our investigation into this matter included a meeting on December 14, 2012, with the alleged underage employee currently working at this supplier. A representative from China Labor Watch was present at this meeting in which she was confirmed as being of legal age. During this meeting she stated, "I do not understand why we are having this discussion. I am over 18 years of age."
We have also confirmed that two other alleged underage employees, who are no longer with this supplier, were of legal age when hired. During the hiring process, their ages and identities were verified through an electronic device that detects fake ID cards.
As part of our pledge against underage employment, we began auditing all sites in China in September, and are implementing new hiring policies to strengthen identity verification measures. These include in-person interviews of all candidates, the introduction of electronic devices to detect fake IDs, and enhanced training and guidelines for managers and HR personnel.
We will continuously monitor suppliers in China from 2013 onwards through an independent third-party auditor, the Validated Audit Process of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition. Contracts with suppliers who employ underage workers will be terminated.