Samsung insists there were no child workers at the factory of its supplier HEG - and that student interns at the plant were above board because they were over the age of 16.
Samsung audited the HEG site after China Labour Watch published a report alleging it had found seven children under the age of 16 working in one department alone. The campaigning outfit said if that many were working in one section, it had reason to suspect as many as 100 kids could be working at the factory in total.
Sammy claimed it couldn't find any evidence of illegal underage workers, although it admitted that the high staff turnover rate at the plant in Huizhou, south east China, made it hard to conduct a thorough audit.
"If HEG fails to meet Samsung’s zero tolerance policy on child labor, the contract will be immediately severed," the South Korean electronics giant said on its website.
Samsung said its probe uncovered what it alleged to be "inadequate management and potentially unsafe practices" at HEG. China Labour Watch and Samsung's auditors claimed plant employees were fined if they were late or sick. The South Korean team added that, in its opinion, the factory's workers were doing illegal amounts of overtime.
"Samsung has demanded that HEG immediately improve its working conditions," the chaebol said. "We have formally notified the company that it must comply with all applicable labor laws and Samsung’s labor and employment right policies."
The South Korean biz denied reports that its own factories employed underage workers, saying it is in "full compliance with its strict zero tolerance policy on child labour".
"We are taking additional steps to reevaluate our working hour practices, such as instances of overtime when new lines are built or new products begin the manufacturing process," the company said.
Samsung also committed to carry out onsite inspections on all of its 105 suppliers that work solely for the firm by the end of September, and review the 144 suppliers that make products for Samsung and others. ®