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China Labor Watch: Samsung Allegedly Copies Apple's Labor Abuses, Too

Early in the year, Apple found itself rocked by a series of serious abuse allegations at the factories of its Chinese suppliers; at the time Li Qiang, the head of the New York-based China Labor Watch, told us that he compared Apple's working conditions to those at competing manufacturers, "and the conditions in those factories are worse than the ones of Apple."

To drive the point home, CLW released a report last month outlining several alleged abuses workers at a factory run by one of Samsung's major suppliers. Yesterday, Samsung said it failed to find any evidence of child labor at the HEG facility, though it did find overtime and safety violations.

China Labor Watch's response? Issuing a lengthy 122 page report detailing a long list of alleged abuses occurring in eight of Samsung's Chinese factories -- six of which Samsung partly owns itself. "Our current investigation reveals that labor violations are not simply limited to the HEG factory," the organization said in a press release. "Rather, these problems are rampant throughout the entire Samsung manufacturing and supply network in China."

The allegations include:

  • Forced overtime exceeding 150 hours per month at peak times
  • Unpaid work time. Several plants allegedly force workers to report to unpaid meetings and arrive up to 20 minutes before their actual shift starts.
  • Minimum wage at one non-Samsung-owned factory
  • Exhausting working conditions. Several factories force employees to stand for 11 to 12 hour shifts -- sans shoes at one factory -- often while looking downwards the entire time and being required to meet aggressive production goals.
  • Child labor abuses at three factories, all of which Samsung owns a majority stake in.
  • "Severe age and gender discrimination." Certain factories were reported to hire only females, or only people between the ages of 16 and 20. People with dyed hair, physical disabilities or short stature were also allegedly passed over for employment opportunities.
  • Abuse of student and labor dispatch workers. Several factories allegedly staff the majority of their workers from labor dispatches -- outsourced labor suppliers -- and do not hire employees directly, passing benefit and safety training responsibility off to the third-party organization. Labor dispatch workers also have to pay a fee to start work, which can equal up to half a month's pay.
  • Lax worker safety regulations and training (see above)
  • "Unfair and unreasonable rules" which often affect employee wages and hiring status, such as recording sick days as work absences (which affect wages), keeping all new workers probationary until a July hiring window, and charging workers for insurance without providing them insurance cards.
  • Verbal and even physical abuse

Workers also have no way to effectively complain or rectify the issues, the group claims. Although CLW lumps the abuses together in this report, it admits that the offenses at Samsung factories are somewhat less egregious than those found at supplier-run factories, though even Samsung's factories nevertheless play host to a number of alleged worker violations.

China Labor Watch has published its 122 page report as well as YouTube videos chronicling the alleged abuses. The group's investigations occurred between May and August, with the investigators both posing as workers and interviewing actual Samsung employees about factory working conditions.