Child Labor Watch Advises Samsung on Underage Worker Investigation

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Samsung got into some hot water yesterday when a labor watch group released a scathing 31-page report on possible worker mistreatment in a China-based plant run by HEG, one of the manufacturer's part suppliers.

The report, conducted by undercover whistle-blowers, blasted the tech maker for a number of offenses, including the physical punishment or verbal abuse of slow or mistake-prone workers and demanding employees work long 11-hour shifts up to six times a week. As nightmarish as that sounds, the report included one more reprehensible piece of information: that seven of HEG's floor workers were under the age of 16, below the legal working age for the area.

Samsung immediately released a statement announcing it would follow up on the allegations by conducting a new investigation into the claims and "take appropriate measures to correct any problems".

The China Labor Watch has some ideas to help with that. In an email follow-up shared today, reps from the watchdog group advised Samsung investigators on how the inspection should be conducted, especially when it comes to uncovering the truth about possible underage workers.

The initial report stated undercover researchers met with seven underage factory employees, but HEG staff responded that only three or four young workers are on staff. According to the CLW's sources, however, at least five of those employees are still working.

To find out what's really happening, the CLW advises Samsung to "carry out in-depth interviews and thorough investigations, such as examining the number of the working positions in the factory to see if there is a sudden shortage of workers" and standing in the factory's entry point to better spot and ID young employees as they file in for work. In that mode of inquiry, the CLW also encourages Samsung to thoroughly check and verify each employee's documentation throughout the investigation, for example, during interviews, etc..

The CLW also advises investigators to be on the look out for forged documentation. "We know all the workers must have IDs, but the authenticity shall be seriously doubted."

In any event, the watch group hopes Samsung will share the results of the investigation, including copies of any IDs. Doing so, would allow the CLW to conduct follow-up investigations to ensure those children aren't punished by or subject to reprisals from the factory's managers.

That assumes that these potentially underage employees are somehow allowed to return to the factory or that they live near it. The CLW hopes that won't be the case. In fact, the watch group believes the "inspection could be effective" and wants Samsung to "help those children go back to school, away from the exploitations of the factory."

Samsung hasn't yet said when the investigations will begin.