The investigation into the plant, operated by SMART Alabama LLC, came about following the disappearance of a migrant child from her family home. The girl, who was 13 at the time, and her two brothers, aged 12 and 15, all worked at the plant in early 2022 and were not going to school, according to people familiar with their employment and confirmed by their father in an interview with Reuters. The discovery probed a wider investigation and authorities found children as young as 13 working at another of Hyundai’s regional supplier plants, SL Alabama.
Hyundai announced last month that they it would ‘sever relationships’ with the companies in an attempt to get a grip on the scandal. However, it must be asked, is this enough? Without addressing the root causes of child labour and developing robust due diligence and risk management processes, it is unlikely that child labour will be eliminated from an organisation’s operations or supply chain.
At both plants, the underage workers were hired by recruiting or staffing firms in the region. While organisations often believe that recruitment agencies should take fully responsibility in the recruitment of workers, including when things go wrong, the Hyundai scandal has highlighted that the burden is shared. The Alabama Department of Labour fined both the plant operator and staffing agency $17,800 each in the SL Alabama case. The consent judgment also enjoined the plant from ‘shipping any goods produced within 30 days of a child labour violation’, further highlighting the business risk and disruption that child labour in supply chains can pose.
No-one who heard about the recent Hyundai scandal wants to imagine there is child labour in their supply chains, but the problem is it can be very difficult to discover, much less root out, without specialist help. Ardea’s S.T.O.P Child Labour Programme is for everyone from directors to sustainability managers to legal and compliance professionals who want to identify and eliminate child labour in their supply chains, avoid risk and reputational damage and develop robust processes for the future. To sign up to our next programme, click here for more information.
For a shorter course, check out our STOP Child Labour: bite-sized e-learning which sets out legislation changes and how to identify and mitigate risk.
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