Samsung has admitted that its Chinese suppliers are still guilty of legal and safety violations, despite its repeated promises to clean up its factories.
In its annual sustainability report, the firm said that this year’s audits had found a number of instances of poor working conditions for people at 100 of its suppliers.
The company didn’t find any child labourers at its factories, but it did find that minors were working with chemical handling processes at 48 of its suppliers.
Samsung also said that the majority of its suppliers don’t comply with China’s legally permitted overtime hours and 33 of them used pay cuts or fines as a system of disciplinary action.
As well as labour violations, the factories also had problems with safety measures. Over half of the suppliers failed to provide safety goggles and other personal protective gear to staff, while some suppliers didn’t have appropriate exits, or provide heat or smoke detectors to protect workers in the event of a fire. A third of the monitored companies were failing to keep a good eye on sewage and waste and another third were failing to fully control air pollutants.
The firm said that it had responded to every violation by telling the supplier it would have to change its ways.
“The suppliers pledged to make improvements and submit improvement plans to prevent the recurrence of such problems,” the report said.
Samsung also said it was “vigorously involved” in activities with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, which is committed to improving responsibility in global supply chains for the sector.
The firm is planning to introduce an integrated inspection checklist and a supplier compliance management code of conduct manual this year to help it get closer to eliminating violations.
“Samsung Electronics urges all of its suppliers to comply with their established code of conduct, while identifying problems and making improvements through regular monitoring,” the report said.
Like many other tech firms, Sammy is constantly vowing to eradicate bad working conditions in its supply factories, as organisations like China Labour Watch have worked to expose the incredibly difficult and often dangerous lives of factory workers.
Tech firms like Sammy and Apple go in for the kind of liberal aspirational branding and reputation that doesn’t sit particularly well with the exploitation of workers in China, and most of the named and shamed companies have started doing yearly audits to indicate that they’re at least trying to improve their workers’ lot.
However, although child worker numbers have shown some improvement, they face a huge problem trying to change illegal overtime hours. Factories frequently pay their employees so little that they sign up to work the arduously long hours, making it more difficult to stop since the factories would actually have to pay them more to put an end to it. ®
Since publication of this article, Samsung has been in touch to say:
We have adopted a multi-year, multifaceted supplier management plan since 2012 to address the findings of internal and independent audits of Samsung supplier companies in China.
We have made significant progress ... We will continue to strive toward full supplier compliance with our policies ... If any suppliers are found to have not made progress, Samsung will constantly call for corrective actions.