Samsung finds evidence of child labor at factory

By David Barboza / New York Times News Service

Published Jul 15, 2014 at 12:01AM

Samsung Electronics said Monday that it had temporarily suspended doing business with a factory in southern China after accusations last week that the factory had illegally hired underage workers to produce cellphone components.

The electronics giant, which is based in South Korea, said its preliminary investigation had found “evidence of suspected child labor” at the factory, Dongguan Shinyang Electronics, which is owned and managed by a company in South Korea, and in the city of Dongguan, one of the biggest manufacturing centers in China.

In a news release, Samsung said that the authorities in China were investigating the case; if the underage workers had been hired illegally, the factory could be barred from working with Samsung.

A labor rights group last week released a report saying it had found at least three underage girls working a shift from 8:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. producing plastic components for Samsung at the Shinyang factory. The group, China Labor Watch, based in New York, also said there were violations in overtime pay and at least two other assembly line workers younger than 16, the legal working age in China.

The accusations were embarrassing for Samsung because on June 30, the company released its annual global sustainability report, which noted for the second year in a row that its audits had not turned up any underage workers in more than 130 supplier factories audited in China.

Samsung said it had audited the Shinyang factory on three occasions since 2013, including on June 25. Last week, a reporter from The New York Times met three girls working in the factory. Their government-issued identification cards indicated that they were 14 and 15 years old. They also acknowledged that they had been hired on June 30, after the Samsung audit, and were working at the factory under false names. They had been hired as temporary workers for the summer, they said, by an employment agency.

Reached by phone Monday, a spokeswoman for Shinyang said the factory was preparing to lay off 600 workers. The factory blamed Feihong Labor Dispatch, an agency that specializes in supplying workers to factories.