A new report by a Chinese labour watchdog makes Apple's Foxconn woes look like a game of spin the bottle, Laptop Mag reports. Untreated injuries? Check. Dangerous workplace? Check. Hitting children and forcing them to stand? Check. This is bad.
The report chronicles the inner workings of HEG Electronics, which manufactures gadgets on behalf of Samsung. Inside its factories? Kids under the age of 16, being worked like dogs until they bleed. China Labor Watch says it was "stunned" by its contact with child workers and the findings of its investigators:
Our research indicates that student laborers amount to 80% of the total workforce in the factory. During our follow up investigations, our investigators suspected that there were a large number of child laborers in other departments of the factory, estimating that there may be 50 to 100 children working there. These children were working under same harsh conditions as adult workers, but were paid only 70% of the wages when compared with the formal employees. Moreover, these child workers were often required to carry-out dangerous tasks that resulted in injury.
Many of the children were drafted from high schools for "summer employment" during high demand production phases -- a common practice at Foxconn too. The stories of the children speak for themselves:
Among the child workers listed above, we interviewed Wu Xiaofang (alias) in particular. She is 14 years old. (Given that she does not have an official ID, we confirmed her age with her.) She told us about her problems at HEG recently. During March and April 2012, she accidentally fell on the stairs on her way from the dormitory to the factory floor, unable to work afterwards. However, the company not only refused to take her to the hospital for treatment but also rejected her request for sick leave. It also deducted 6 days from her wages on the pretext of her sick leave. Similar things happened in late May. At that time, Wu was late because of the illness and asked for leave, but the manager did not approve. She was too sick to work and went back to rest in the dormitory, while the company deducted 3 days from her wages for absenteeism. What was worse, Wu was fired for no reason in late June and expelled in July.
Not being unfairly fired sounds even worse:
The management are abusive during work, sometimes hitting workers on the factory floor. Any carelessness, such as slow movements, misoperation, or late completion of team leaders' orders could provoke the shouting of team leaders at anytime. Everyday, employees in the workshops were punished by standing all day long, writing self-criticism, or getting fined.
Again, exactly like Foxconn, these are poor children who are literally living inside the factory complexes -- ripe for the exploiting, with few other options for income.
Laptop Mag says Samsung confirmed it will "conduct another field survey at the earliest possible time" to check for labour violations. Whether this will do anything to prevent kids from being misused and slapped while building mobile phones remains murky.
Read the report below in its entirety. [Laptop Mag]