Samsung has temporarily suspended business with Dongguan Shinyang Electronics, a supplier factory that China Labor Watch (CLW) accused July 9 of hiring children to make Samsung devices.
"It is unfortunate that the allegation surfaced despite Samsung's efforts to prevent child labor at its suppliers," the Galaxy device maker wrote in a July 14 blog post. "As part of its pledge against child labor, Samsung routinely conducts inspections to monitor its suppliers in China to ensure they follow the commitment, and [Dongguan Shinyang] has provided necessary support."
The factory has conducted three audits since 2013, the most recent on June 24, Samsung added. "No cases of child labor were found."
In a July 9 statement, however, CLW wrote that, since 2012, it has carried out more than a dozen investigations of labor conditions at Samsung factories in China, and these have uncovered violations, including unpaid overtime, abuse of labor dispatch and student workers, safety concerns and a lack of insurance.
Among the most serious of these violations, it added, has been the employment of children.
"In June this year, CLW sent an undercover investigator into the Shinyang Electronics factory. By just the third day of the investigation, CLW had uncovered five child workers (under 16), finding evidence of even more in the subsequent days," CLW said in its statement.
"Around the same time as CLW's investigation, Samsung published its 2014 sustainability report titled Global Harmony," CLW continued. "Within, Samsung says that it inspected working conditions at 200 suppliers in 2013 and 'no instances of child labor were found.'"
In a report released July 10, CLW added, "After allegedly inspecting hundreds of Chinese suppliers, Samsung did not find one child worker. Yet in just one Samsung supplier factory, CLW has uncovered several children employed without labor contracts, working 11 hours per day and only being paid for 10 of those hours."
The New York Times, in its own July 10 report, said it found 14- and 15-year-old girls using fake papers to work in Samsung supplier factories. The girls said they'd also worked in (other) factories the summer before.
Samsung quickly responded to the CLW report, saying July 10 that it was "urgently looking into the latest allegations and will take appropriate measures in accordance with our policies to prevent any cases of child labor."
Starting in late 2012, Samsung says it began demanding that suppliers adopt a new hiring process to strengthen identity verification. (According to CLW, child workers have used fake or stolen IDs.) The process includes face-to-face interviews, an electronic scanner to detect fake IDs and the installation of a "facial-recognition system."
On June 27, Samsung announced a Child Labor Prohibition Policy that it co-developed with the Centre for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility in China, which is owned by Save the Children Sweden, Samsung added in its July 10 post.
"It is an example of our efforts to promote a level of compliance that meets the same high standards we maintain at our own facilities," added Samsung, which included a link to the Policy.
In its July 14 statement, Samsung said that it found evidence that illegal hiring had taken place June 29, and Chinese authorities are looking into the matter. If the investigation finds that the supplier hired children, "Samsung will permanently halt business with the supplier in accordance with its zero-tolerance policy on child labor."
Further, Samsung said, it will "strengthen its hiring process, not only at its production facilities, but also at its suppliers to prevent such [a] case from reoccurring."