Thursday, July 10, 2014, 01:33 pm PT (04:33 pm ET)
Audit contradicts Samsung's claim that it does not use child labor for Android phonesLast week, Samsung issued a Sustainability Report just like Apple has been doing for years. But Samsung's report was just worthless advertising according to China Labor Watch, which says the company both uses child labor and underpays the children who build its Android phones.
Samsung didn't initially appear to be whitewashing conditions in its report. It recounted that 48 percent of its suppliers in China had "minors involved with chemical handling processes" and 59 percent failed to supply safety gear such as goggles, masks, gloves and earplugs.
It said the "majority" of its suppliers were breaking China's overtime laws, that 39 percent were paying workers a fixed wage to workers without any overtime pay, and that a third were punishing workers with fines or pay cuts, and that "some" facilities lacked working smoke alarms or emergency exits.
Only 15 percent of Apple's partners were found to have incorrectly counted or underpaid workers for overtime, versus "the majority" of suppliers reported by Samsung
A report by Dan Newman for Fool.com simply equated Samsung's new report with Apple under the headline "The Scary Supplier Practices of Apple and Samsung." He detailed items from both, writing that "Apple faces many of the same issues," before recounting very different numbers for each company.
Less than 20 percent of Apple's suppliers had failed to provide adequate safety gear, for example, compared to 59 percent among Samsung's. And only 15 percent of Apple's partnersq>Only 15 percent of Apple's partners were found to have incorrectly counted or underpaid workers for overtime, versus "the majority" of suppliers reported by Samsung
The two company's self-reported figures are difficult to compare across the board because they don't measure the same things according to the same standards. However, Newman's assessment that both company's reports were "nothing new" and that "customers just don't care," and therefore "investors don't care" were incorrect.
Audit says Samsung uses child labor, doesn't report it
Today, The Verge noted that Samsung's report "enumerated a long list of improper employment practices among the Korean company's Chinese suppliers. What it did not find, however, were any instances of child labor, giving the 100 suppliers that were audited in China a clean bill of health at least on that metric."
However, it continued, "Contradicting those Samsung inspections is a report today form China Labor Watch (CLW) that alleges multiple instances of child labor at the Shinyang Electronics factory in Dongguan.
"CLW is scathing in its dismissal of Samsung's social responsibility reports as mere advertisements that 'don't have any real value for the workers.'"
CLW executive director Li Qiang described Samsung's monitoring systems as ineffectual, noting in the report that "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 site also pointed to a separate report by Guangzhou Daily, which uncovered 192 underage workers at another plant in Dongguan, illustrating how widespread the problem is in China.
Samsung beginning to get some CLW's Apple ire
CLW has previously voiced a somewhat unrealistic understanding of workers in other countries while taking regular potshots at Apple, most recently for the company's efforts to work with Fair Labor Association to independently audit its progress rather than returning CLW's calls.
"I'd like everyone to imagine a factory in the US where a worker must work on his feet ten hours a day," Li Qiang wrote in a press release on CLW's site. He then describes a worker who "lives thousands of miles away from home and cannot return to see his family for years on end because the factory does not offer him sufficient leave."
His group also observed the death of Steve Jobs in 2011 by noting that his passing "also sparked a peculiar sadness in China. The majority of Chinese citizens, including nearly a million employees working for the Apple supply chain, cannot even afford to purchase the new iPhone."
After producing a non-stop trail of contempt for Apple that has long singled out the company and blamed if for everything wrong in China, Li Qiang notes that he "attempted to correspond with Steve Jobs and Apple numerous times but had never received any sort of response."
Apple began Supplier Responsibility Reports in 2006
Apple was the first major tech company to voluntarily report what it was doing to stop illegal activities among its suppliers and its suppliers' suppliers, enforcing a code of conduct that suppliers must follow to obtain and retain Apple's business.
Apple has also set up an 18 month program Supplier Environment, Health and Safety Academy program to educate hundreds of factory personnel—overseeing hundreds of thousands of workers—on environment, health and safety issues. The company has also required its suppliers to inform over 3.8 million employees on worker's rights over the past six years.
Apple has invested millions of dollars into equipping its Supplier Employee Education and Development program, which enables workers to expand their education with free courses in English, computer proficiency, management skills, or obtaining certifications in skills such as an electrician or welder. Apple also works with local universities to help workers obtain high school equivalency and college degrees.
The company reports that it is now auditing overtime records for over million suppliers' workers on a weekly basis, achieving 95 percent compliance with working limits.
Google shirks all responsibility related to workers and environmental issues
While Samsung has copied the look of Apple's reports (and recently funded a puff piece by Steve Kovach of BusinessInsider that portrayed its factory conditions as wonderful), it reached its pinnacle of success by leveraging Android to make iPhone copies produced without similar concern for workers' rights or safety or any particular concern for the environment.
Google's other Android partners haven't even made a stab of copying Apple's supplier accountability reports, and Google itself does not enforce any standards related to worker health, safety or environmental issues among its Android licensees. Google doesn't even enforce any minimum standards for accessibility on its platform.
No reviews of Android products by CNET or any of the other sites that enthusiastically promote the platform have ever drawn attention to Android's total lack of accountability in worker and environmental issues
Google has never been held accountable for the worker abuse, environmental impacts or the use of conflict minerals that go into Android products, a subject Google doesn't even address. The company couldn't even enforce its own software update support policies under the "Google Update Alliance" that intended to push licensees to deliver regular Android updates, so there's no potential for Google to drive any improvements to employee welfare or environmental issues among its licensees.
Google's Android licensees are producing the largest number of low end, high volume, margin-scraping electronics devices worldwide, making Android primarily responsible for driving demand among the most penny pinching, rule bending manufacturers and suppliers that exist.
No reviews of Android products by CNET or any of the other sites that enthusiastically promote the platform have ever drawn attention to Android's total lack of accountability in worker and environmental issues, even while they have regularly published factually challenged criticisms of Apple that portray the company as single-handedly responsible for issues even including workers who commit suicide if those deaths happen near a factory that also produces iPhones.
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