Samsung workers' rights under the spotlight as Galaxy S8 launch nears

Samsung workers' rights under the spotlight as Galaxy S8 launch nears

The International Trade Union Confederation scrutinises Samsung in the lead up to the Galaxy S8 release

Moreover, Samsung’s 2016 Sustainability Report outlines the company’s self-professed adherence to a number of global human rights standards and workers’ rights codes of conduct.

“Samsung is committed to abiding by all laws and regulations in the countries and local communities where it operates,” the report stated. “We also respect the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

“At the same time, as a dedicated member of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), Samsung fully complies with EICC's Code of Conduct, a core requirement that takes into account various international standards,” it said.

According to Samsung, the company abides by an internal Samsung Code of Conduct, which is based on five major business principles that it announced in 2005, which is aimed at enforcing an ethical standard of business conduct in all activities. On top of this, the company claims that it has other measures in place to protect workers.

“In 2014, we developed and announced a child labour prohibition policy in China,” the report stated. “In 2016, we will take a step further to develop guidelines for apprenticeship training in India and guidelines for migrant workers in Malaysia.

“We expect all facilities at Samsung to follow these guidelines and our expectations with individuals and suppliers in our supply chain will remain the same.

“To make sure our policies are implemented, we conduct regular on-site inspections and compliance training. Also, Samsung is aware of its corporate responsibility to eradicate modern slavery and forced labour.

As part of its initiatives in the area of employee protection, Samsung said that it welcomes changes in the legal environment, such as with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the UK Modern Slavery Act.

At the same time, however, the company conceded that it was re-examining its policies and activities related to modern slavery and forced labour in a bid to “discern which complementary measures” it needs to take to help eradicate slave labour.

As of 2016, when the report was published, Samsung Electronics operated 38 production bases in 17 countries around the world, directly creating 90 per cent of its own production volume at various worksites.

According to Samsung, each worksite abides by all in-house, internal policies and standards, and often goes beyond obligatory standards in order to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.

Samsung is certainly not the first multinational technology company that has come under fire over workers’ rights and conditions. Apple has previously copped criticism over one of its major suppliers, Foxconn, and its reportedly poor working conditions.

Although Apple shifted some of its production work from Foxconn to fellow Taiwanese supplier, Pegatron, in 2013, the company still occasionally feels the heat from accusations over questionable conditions for its suppliers’ workers.

Since 2007, Apple has been releasing annual Supplier Responsibility progress reports in a bid to ensure that organisations in its supply chain comply to sound employee policies.

“In 2016, we continued to increase our efforts with our suppliers. We performed 705 comprehensive site audits, our largest number to date. Our suppliers demonstrated an improved ability to meet our stringent standards,” Apple said in its latest report.

“In fact, the number of high performing supplier sites increased by 59 percent, while low-performing sites decreased by 31 percent,” it said.

Samsung’s supply chain includes more than 2700 suppliers, while Apple’s suppliers employ millions of people globally.

For ITUC, which stated in its report that, “the model of global supply chains is broken,” moves by individual companies to protect workers do not go far enough.

“Corporate greed, corporate bullying cannot be tolerated – it’s time for a global rule of law to guarantee globalisation with fair working conditions, with rights, minimum wages on which people can live with dignity, and safe and secure work,” Burrow and IndustriALL general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said in a joint statement.

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Tags ApplesamsungNote 7Galaxy S8

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