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Vietnam: Study finds that miscarriage, extreme fatigue, fainting & dizziness are common among women workers in Samsung factories; co rejects claims

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9 May 2018

Samsung responds to UN human rights experts re allegations raised in report on working conditions in Vietnam

Author: Samsung Electronics

Dear Professor Anita Ramasastry, Professor David Kaye and Mr. Baskut Tuncak, ...

After learning about the allegations in the IPEN report, we immediately compared them with the most recent findings of third-party audits of our factories in Vietnam. We have noticed that many of the allegations raised in the report do not seem to correspond to the overall findings of the audit reports. In order to further verify the allegations and analyze the discrepancies between the allegations and the audit findings, we have established an internal task force to look more closely into and address the concerns expressed in the report.

We have also begun working with external human rights advisors to build internal capacity and to identify any human rights impacts of our operations with a view to addressing areas where we find improvements are needed.

Together with many of my colleagues on the task force and our recently engaged external human rights advisors, I visited two of our production sites in Vietnam in mid-April in order to obtain a common view of the working conditions and engage in constructive discussions with our local management.

On occupational safety issues, which require health and safety expertise, the Samsung Institute of Safety and Environment (“SISE”) conducted a special internal audit at the beginning of this year. Following an initial assessment, the SISE is running a more in-depth analysis involving third-party experts from a renowned medical institution in Korea. In this letter, I attach our responses to your questions and appendices that are based on the outcome of these efforts...

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18 December 2017

NGOs issue rejoinder in response to Samsung's comments on report detailing working conditions at manufacturing facilities in Vietnam

Author: Pham Thi Minh Hang, Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development & Joseph DiGangi, IPEN

...We are writing to respond to Samsung's criticisms of our recent study on working conditions at the company's mobile phone factories in Vietnam... In Vietnam and abroad, Samsung has been actively attempting to suppress and discredit this study that documents a number of concerning health and safety violations... However, none of Samsung's efforts can erase the evidence that Samsung has violated Vietnamese labour law and failed to honour its business obligations on human rights...

Our study and the company's reaction to it revealed several findings that are inconsistent with Samsung's obligations under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights including complying with national laws, providing a safe and healthy working environment, protecting the family unit, right to form independent trade unions, and freedom of expression...

Samsung's principal argument against the findings of its own employees in our study is that third-party audits show different results... Samsung's auditors claim that workers "speak freely" during audits, but no worker will risk losing their job [...] by honestly reporting the kinds of things that the 45 whistleblowers told us...

Samsung notes in its letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre that it is "open to any suggestions that may help us to continuously improve our company." We made quite a few suggestions in our study...

Download the full document here

Company response
5 December 2017

Samsung responds to report on working conditions at manufacturing facilities in Vietnam

Author: Samsung Electronics

[W]ith regards to the [...] IPEN report about working conditions at our manufacturing facilities in Vietnam.

First, we would like to offer our company's perspective, both regarding the content of the IPEN report and regarding the way this report was drafted and published. Second, we would like to contextualise our position by providing the summary results of recent audits performed on site in the factories targeted by the IPEN-report. One of the third-party audits included interviews with 266 employees, without the facility management being present...

...We do not agree with the assessment described in the report... As part of our work to ensure law-abiding standards in our operations, the Vietnamese labour authorities audit the facilities every year. And as our further commitments to ensure the standards, independent third parties [...] have conducted on-site audits of the facilities in December 2016 and June 2017 respectively.

Furthermore, the audits [...] show a reality that refutes the violations which are raised by the interviewees in the IPEN report.

Samsung Electronics takes great care to provide a workplace environment that assures the highest standards of health, safety and welfare. We respect our employees and are committed to comply with applicable laws and regulations in every region we operate in...

Following the on-site audit, Samsung Electronics has adopted a corrective action plan consisting of three steps to designed to improve all identified issues...

Download the full document here

28 November 2017

Samsung dismisses labor abuse claims in Vietnam

Author: VN Express Intl.

A new report has revealed a series of health and workplace violations at Samsung plants in Vietnam, but the South Korean tech giant has categorically rejected the claims...

...Samsung in Vietnam has dismissed all the findings, saying that any concerns about the conditions of its workers are “groundless”.

In a statement responding to the study, Samsung Electronics Vietnam said it “regrets” that the CGFED and IPEN had conducted the study without visiting its factories.

It said the two units “had unitarily published a report with information that completely was not based on truth.”

“The company always tries its best to ensure its workers’ health, safety and welfare, and all its business operations strictly follow Vietnamese laws and global standards,” it said. 

Regarding miscarriages, Samsung Electronics communications director Ryu Kil Sang told VnExpress the sample size of 45 is too small to draw a convincing conclusion, given that 4,000 of its employees are currently pregnant...

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27 November 2017

Samsung Workers on the Line: Unique Report Reveals the Lives of Vietnamese Women Workers Making the Samsung Smart Phones in Your Pocket

Author: Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development & IPEN

…Women working at two Samsung factories in Vietnam…experience…frequent fainting, dizziness, miscarriages, standing for eight-to-twelve hours, and alternating day/night shift work…documented in a report…by the Hanoi-based Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and IPEN….

Because Samsung is notoriously secretive, it offers a rare glimpse into life on the Samsung factory floor.

Key Findings:

  • All workers reported extreme fatigue, fainting and dizziness at work.
  • Workers reported that miscarriages are extremely common—even expected.
  • Workers must stand throughout their 8-to-12-hour shifts….
  • Pregnant workers usually stand for the entire shift to avoid having the company deduct money from their wages for taking breaks.
  • More than half of the interviewed women have children, but they are separated from them.
  • Workers reported problems with eyesight, nose bleeds, and stomach aches, as well as bone, joint, and leg pain.
  • Workers’ lives are controlled inside and outside of work. Breaks are short and limited, and workers must request special passes to use the restroom. Workers are restricted from speaking about work because of fear of reprisals.
  • …Despite the fact that workers are stationed in open factory settings where other workers use a variety of substances, they did not consider assembly line work a chemical risk.

The study…is a rare opportunity for consumers and policy makers to learn about the harsh working conditions that the female workers…must endure.

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Download the full document here