A 14 year old girl, together with six other child workers under 16, were recently discovered working at a factory in China (HEG (Huizhou)) that supplies electronic products like Samsung. These children labored under deplorable conditions, working 11 hours a day, 26 to 28 days a month to make mobile phones, DVDs, stereo equipment and MP3 players for Samsung. This is the same workload as adult workers at the factory, but the children only receive 70% of a formal worker’s pay.
I played a leading role in organizing networks of labor activists, researching factories and conducting worker education and legal assistance programs in China before I came to the US. Improving conditions for Chinese workers has been my life's work and passion. When the organization I direct, China Labor Watch (CLW), conducted and published a report uncovering underage child labor at a Samsung factory, I wanted to take action
The abuse, uncovered in a new investigation conducted by my organization CLW, shows clear violations of Chinese labor laws. While the precise number of child laborers throughout the factory is unknown, investigators suspect that as many as 50-100 under age children may work for this factory alone.
Wu Xiaofang (an alias this young female worker used as well as the name she used on her fake ID in order to get into the factory to work) was only 14 years old. She told China Labor Watch investigators that the factory refused to take her to the hospital for treatment when she fell on the stairs accidentally. The factory’s management even rejected her request for sick leave and deducted 6 days of her wages. Similar abuses happened again two months later. Xiaofang was fired by the factory without any compensation in July.
According to China Labor Watch’s analysis of the hours, salary, and overtime pay listed on Xiaofang’s paystub, her approximate overtime was between 70 and 84 hours in this month. The daily subsidy for night shifts is just over $1, and she received a total of 77 RMB in subsidies for her night shifts this month. Xiaofang worked 11 night shifts during this month, each shift lasting from 8pm to 8am. This paystub clearly shows how the factory was treating this 14-year-old girl. Despite the evidence, Samsung’s supplier alleged that Xiaofang made up a story about her terrible working conditions.
Please join me in calling on Samsung to stop using child laborers at its Chinese employers, to make sure they are compensate for any work they have already done and that they return to school. Finally, Samsung should establish an independent hotline for workers to report abuses like this to prevent them from happening again.