Hyundai Motor Co said it is in talks with the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve concerns about child workers in its U.S. supply chain, and the company is taking corrective actions after a Reuters investigation found children as young as 12 working in hazard-laden Alabama factories linked to the automotive giant.
In a statement late Tuesday, Hyundai told Reuters it has held a series of discussions with the Labor Department, which has been investigating a Hyundai subsidiary in Alabama and other parts suppliers to the automaker, and its sister brand Kia Corp, for potential child labor violations.
The talks with the U.S. labor regulator have focused on “compliance measures across our supply chain,” company spokesman Michael Stewart said in a statement. He also detailed several new measures Hyundai is implementing to “ensure non-compliance never happens again.”
Among them: Hyundai said it will roll out new employment training programs throughout its U.S. supply chain, validate identification documents for job applicants, set up anonymous tip hotlines, and discourage the use of third-party staffing agencies. Reuters found those agencies sometimes placed underage workers in the suppliers’ plants.
The Labor Department declined to comment on meetings or discussions with Hyundai. In a statement, a department spokesperson said it is “committed to ensuring employers understand their responsibility under the law and engages with employers to help them achieve compliance.”
Hyundai’s statement comes as a U.S. congresswoman whose Alabama district includes the site of the company’s U.S. assembly plant is pressing the automaker to ensure kids are no longer illegally working in the state’s automotive plants.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, a Democrat, said she has held a series of discussions with Hyundai, including one last week, to address the concerns at auto parts factories that supply Hyundai and Kia. (000270.KS)
“I have made clear that the use of child labor is abhorrent and unacceptable, and that there must be accountability,” Sewell told Reuters in a statement. The congresswoman said she will continue working with Hyundai, federal regulators and autoworkers in Alabama to ensure that the automaker’s actions “will be sufficient to prevent this from happening again.”
Courtest Reuters. Full report available here.