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A Toxics-Free Future


Vietnam to investigate report of worker mistreatment at Samsung factories

A report released this week details workplace violations by the South Korean electronics giant

Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) will work with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Hanoi to investigate a recent report that claims female workers at two Samsung factories in the country are victims of health and workplace violations by the South Korean electronics giant.

The report was released earlier this week by the Hanoi-based Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and IPEN, a global network of environment and health non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to reduce the use of harmful chemicals throughout the world.

“The ILO in Hanoi has received the report and acknowledged the seriousness of its claims,” Nguyen Anh Tho, a labor safety official from MOLISA told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday. 

Extremely fatigued workers?

The report combines industrial sector research and qualitative narratives of 45 workers at two Samsung Electronics factories in Vietnam.

Its key findings include that extreme fatigue, fainting, and dizziness were reported by all workers in its sample.  It also found that miscarriages amongst the Samsung Electronics factory workers were reported as “extremely common” and “even expected.”

Workers at the two factories are expected to stand throughout their 8-to-12-hour shifts and many are kept on alternating day and night shift schedules, regardless of weekends, according to the report.

The report also claims that salary deductions were taken from workers who take breaks, including pregnant workers.  During the few short, limited breaks allowed by the company, workers must request special passes to use the restroom. 

Workers also reported problems with eyesight, nose bleeds, and stomach aches, as well as bone, joint, and leg pain.

The report also proposes the need for further research regarding chemical exposure, considering that assembly line workers are stationed in open factory settings where other workers use a variety of substances.

Tuoi Tre’s could not reach the CGFED researchers for comment on the report.

Samsung’s response

In an official statement sent to Tuoi Tre, Samsung Electronics Vietnam dismissed all claims made in the report, saying they “regretted” that IPEN and CGFED had done their research without actually having visited the factories or verifying claims with company officials.

A Samsung representative said all workers at its factories have signed labor contracts and are treated in accordance with Vietnam’s law on labor, including provisions on working hours and meal times.

The company has also established a center for musculoskeletal and joint care that is responsible for the study of workplace ergonomics to ensure that workers are able to relieve tension built up from from performing the same movements for long periods of time.

Assembly line workers at the factories are also equipped with protective gear to prevent chemical exposure and a ventilation system installed at the factory ensures that little chemical residue escapes into the air, the representative said.

Samsung is committed to conducting environmental assessments twice a year to maintain a safe working environment for all employees, the representative added.

Immediate investigation

Speaking with Tuoi Tre on Wednesday, Nguyen Anh Tho, a labor safety official from MOLISA, said he had yet to read the CGFRED report.

However, Tho acknowledged that the ILO had made contact with the ministry to look into the report’s claims. 

“We will definitely launch an immediate investigation into Samsumg upon receiving the official report,” Tho said.

According to the official, the ministry conducts yearly inspections at the Samsung factories and found no violations as serious those claimed by CGFRED.

“We will need to reevaluate the time and scale of the survey,” Tho said.

Leaders of labor unions in the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Thai Nguyen, where the Samsung factories are based, said on Wednesday afternoon they had not yet received any reports or complaints about the working conditions at the factories.