A report released by CGFED and IPEN in November 2017 accuses Samsung of ‘serious’ labour abuses in its Vietnamese smartphone factories. Despite the evidence, Samsung disputes claims of wrongdoing and said the report is different from the facts, while also threatening legal action against CGFED for this work.
Samsung is a major investor in Vietnam, with over 160,000 employees and contributing to 68 percent of all revenue from the country’s electronics industry, which is the highest grossing sector in Vietnam. However, Samsung is notoriously secretive about operations in its Vietnamese smartphone factories (in Bac Ninh and Thai Nguyen).
The report by CGFED and IPEN – “Stories of Women Workers in Vietnam Electronics Industry” offers a glimpse into life on the factory floor, focusing on the experiences of 45 women working at two Samsung factories in Vietnam. It documents the workers’ experiences of fatigue, fainting and dizziness at work, as well as problems with eyesight, nose bleeds, stomach aches, bone/joint/leg pain and increased incidence of miscarries due to work.
Workers, including pregnant women, have said they have to stand while working 8-12 hour shifts and many are kept on alternating day/night shift schedules, regardless of weekends. They also claim to be heavily controlled by management, with limited breaks and having to ask to use the restroom.
Furthermore, the report requests additional investigations into the leakage of chemicals. Workers work in an environment that uses chemicals, but are unaware of chemical risks in the assembly process.
Despite these claims, Samsung has dismissed all the findings. In a statement responding to the study, Samsung Electronics Vietnam said CGFED and IPEN “had unitarily published a report with information that completely was not based on truth.”
The company argued that researchers did not visit the factories but solely presented the report with unfounded claims. Furthermore, a sample size of 45 female workers is insufficient to conclude its workers suffer from health problems like fatigue, dizziness and miscarriages – given that Samsung Vietnam employs over 160,000 workers at these sties.
Regarding the use of chemicals, Samsung Electronics Vietnam said chemicals were used at some stages of production. However, measures were taken to prevent workers from being exposed to chemicals and no Samsung employees had been exposed to chemicals in its factories.
Regardless of the claims of labour abuse, the report highlights wider issues of Samsung’s operations in Vietnam. The report underscores the need for better worker protection in Vietnam, where there are no government enforced labor codes protecting the health of electronics industry workers. In addition, there is a need for increased transparency around manufacturing and chemical use throughout electronics production.
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