© farang dreamstime.com General | November 19, 2015
HEG Technology still employs workers under 18
A new investigative report by China Labor Watch (CLW) states that a China-based consumer electronics supplier to Samsung, Oppo, Huawei, and TCL, continues to employ underage workers (under 18).
The non-profite group has called out the company on multiple occasions since 2012 for exploiting children (under 16), underage labor, and student workers. Since 2012, CLW has investigated working conditions at HEG Technology in Huizhou, China four times. Each probe has uncovered child, underage, or student labor. In September 2014, HEG sued CLW in China for defamation linked to CLW’s exposing the employment of child labour on HEG’s production lines. CLW responded in December 2014 with additional evidence suggesting that HEG and Samsung were covering up the use of child workers. CLW initiated a probe of HEG’s production facilities in June 2015. The partner investigator was discovered by HEG management, which influenced some of the information collected for the report. Nonetheless, the investigation shows a number of findings. While a comparison of working conditions at HEG from 2012 to 2015 demonstrates some limited improvements, the report also suggests that serious labour rights violations continue. HEG appeared to institute stricter hiring requirements, especially at its main plant, including a minimum hiring age of 20 and avoidance of student workers. But gender-based discrimination continues, with a preference for women. Moreover, at HEG’s branch plant, near the main plant, underage people (16-17 years of age) continue to work on production lines without special protections, as required by Chinese law, CWL continues in its report. Pre-job training at HEG also increased to four days. However, occupational safety training was only a proportion of that time and, critically, the safety training itself was generalized and incomplete, failing to provide much information on risks or toxic chemicals related to each workers’ specific production processes. In a number of other areas, working conditions have failed to improve. Overtime hours—two to three hours per day, six days a week—still exceed legal maximums, and overtime continues to be mandatory. Wages remain at or slightly above the local minimum wage, about USD 1.25 per hour, which makes workers dependent on overtime to make ends meet. Resignation still effectively requires workers to “apply” for authorization from supervisors, even though Chinese law only requires notification. Whereas in the past, HEG workers could live in a crowded dorm (with 10 people to a room) for free, they now must pay 50 RMB ($7.85) per month. Insurance policy has apparently worsened; according to HEG workers contacted by CLW in November 2015. HEG has made insurance voluntary, which contradicts the mandatory insurance rule under Chinese law. Just as in 2012, CLW’s 2015 investigation found no evidence of a functioning labor union at HEG. "After three years of periodic investigation, it should be clear to the buyers of HEG Technology—Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, and TCL—that labor abuses have failed to fundamentally improve. These brand companies must immediately initiate changes at HEG by making necessary adjustments to production prices, time schedules, and oversight", the report states.