Underage labor claims push Samsung to investigate Chinese factory

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Although Apple's Foxconn ordeal eventually managed to slip beyond the spotlight, Samsung may be next in line for a public flogging due to workforce abuse. China Labor Watch is reporting a major Samsung supplier, HEG Electronics, has been employing workers under the legal working age of 16.

China Labor Watch is a New York-based organization which aims to keep manufacturers (and the companies who work with them) accountable for poor labor conditions and violations. Readers can view their full report (pdf), replete with the CLW's findings dozens of photos.

This isn't the first time such reports have surfaced, but Samsung found two other similar claims this year to be false alarms. However, unlike previous inspections, Samsung will be sending representatives from its Korean headquarters. That differs slightly from past inspections, which were performed by third-party Chinese contractors. Samsung likely believes sending its own inspectors will help bolster public confidence in how seriously the company takes these matters.

When asked about the matter by various news agencies, Samsung issued this blanket response:

Samsung Electronics has conducted two separate on-site inspections on HEG's working conditions this year but found no irregularities on those occasions. A team of inspectors consisting of Samsung personnel from Korea headquarters will be dispatched to Huizhou, China on August 9, and it will immediately launch an investigation and take appropriate measures to correct any problems that may surface. Samsung Electronics is a company held to the highest standards of working conditions and we try to maintain that at our facilities and the facilities of partner companies around the world.

The CLW also discovered that child laborers were working the same hours as adults (11 to 13 hours per day) but received 30 percent less pay than their grown-up counterparts. According to the report, most of HEG's workforce is comprised of workers under the age of 18; however, it is unclear how many of those workers are under the legal age of 16.

Whether or not evidence of underage labor will be found is uncertain, but as The Verge points out, Samsung's public announcement offers HEG Electronics time to cover up potential wrongdoings. Samsung will be visiting the Huizhou facility in China on August 9.

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