Samsung halts Chinese business links amid child labour concerns
Samsung has halted business with a supplier in China over suspected use of child workers, the first time it has taken such a step, after criticism that its monitoring of labour practices at suppliers was inadequate.
The decision, announced yesterday, comes less than a week after US-based China Labor Watch said it found "at least five child workers" without contracts at the supplier and called Samsung's monitoring process to halt such practices "ineffective."
Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone maker, said it conducted three audits of the supplier since 2013 ‑ the latest of which ended on June 25. The supplier is a wholly owned subsidiary of South Korea's Shinyang Engineering.
But another investigation prompted by the watchdog's report led to evidence of what Samsung called suspected child labour, pointing to holes in the tech giant's ability to enforce its labour guidelines for Chinese suppliers.
"The Chinese authorities are also looking into the case," Samsung said. It said it would permanently cut all ties with the supplier if the allegations were true, in line with its zero-tolerance policy on child workers.
Dongguan Shinyang Electronics and Shinyang Engineering could not be reached for comment.
Labour practices at Samsung suppliers have come under scrutiny since 2012, when China Labor Watch said seven children younger than 16 were working for one of the electronics giant's China-based suppliers.
Chinese labour law forbids hiring workers under 16.
The South Korean firm later said it found no evidence of child labour following those accusations, although acknowledged other problems including overtime hours in excess of regulations.
In November 2012, Samsung established a code of conduct for suppliers in line with standards set by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition. It also asked suppliers to sign a compliance agreement to prevent child labour.
Samsung also demands that suppliers adopt a strict hiring process that includes face-to-face interviews and the use of scanners to detect fake IDs.