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Child Labour Was Used At A Factory Of A Subsidiary Of Hyundai In The US

Child Labour Was Used At A Factory Of A Subsidiary Of Hyundai In The US
According to regional police of Montgomery, Alabama, the family of three minor workers, and eight former and present employees of the facility, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co exploited child labour at a company that supplies parts for the Korean carmaker's assembly line in the locality.  
According to these sources, underage labourers, some as young as 12, have recently worked in a metal stamping plant managed by SMART Alabama LLC. SMART, which Hyundai lists as a majority-owned subsidiary in corporate documents, supplies parts for some of the automaker's most popular vehicles and SUVs made in Montgomery, its flagship U.S. assembly facility.
Hyundai stated in a statement issued shortly after Reuters reported its findings on Friday "At any Hyundai entity, illegal employment practises are not tolerated. We have systems and procedures in place to ensure that all local, state, and federal laws are followed." It did not respond to Reuters' comprehensive questioning concerning the findings.
In a second statement, SMART stated that it abides by federal, state, and local regulations and "denies any accusation that it intentionally employed anyone who is ineligible for employment." The company stated that it hires temporary workers and expects "these agencies to respect the law in recruiting, hiring, and deploying personnel on its premises."
SMART did not respond to specific inquiries concerning the workers mentioned in this story or the on-the-job incidents described by them and others acquainted with the factory.
Following the temporary abduction of a Guatemalan migrant child from her family's home in Alabama in February, Reuters learnt of underage labour at the Hyundai-owned supplier.
According to those familiar with their job, the daughter, who turns 14 this month, and her two brothers, ages 12 and 15, all worked at the company earlier this year and were not attending school. In an interview with Reuters, their father, Pedro Tzi, confirmed these people's claims.
According to police in the Tzi family's adopted hometown of Enterprise, the child and her siblings worked at SMART.
The police, who assisted in the hunt for the missing youngster, recognised her by name in a public alert over the course of their investigation.
The police department in Enterprise, some 45 miles from the Luverne business, lacks jurisdiction to investigate potential labor-law breaches at the factory. According to James Sanders, an Enterprise police detective, the force instead alerted the state attorney general's office following the event.
A spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General's Office, Mike Lewis, declined to comment. It is unknown whether the agency or other investigators contacted SMART or Hyundai about potential violations. In response to Reuters' investigation, the Alabama Department of Labor stated on Friday that it will be cooperating with the US Department of Labor and other agencies.
According to interviews with a dozen former and current plant employees and labour recruiters, Pedro Tzi's children were among a growing cohort of underage workers who secured positions at the Hyundai-owned supplier over the previous few years.
They claim that several of these children have skipped school in order to work lengthy shifts at the plant, which has a proven history of health and safety problems, including amputation hazards.
The majority of current and former employees who talked with Reuters requested anonymity. Reuters was unable to determine the exact number of youngsters who may have worked at the SMART facility, as well as the wages or other circumstances of their employment.
The discovery of child labour in Hyundai's US supply chain might result in customer, regulatory, and reputational blowback for one of the world's most powerful and successful automakers. Hyundai prohibits child labour throughout its workforce, including suppliers, according to a "human rights policy" posted online.
The business has announced plans to expand in the United States, with more than $5 billion in investments planned, including a new electric vehicle manufacturing near Savannah, Georgia.
"Consumers should be outraged," said David Michaels, the former U.S. assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, with whom Reuters shared the findings of its reporting.
"They should know that these cars are being built, at least in part, by workers who are children and need to be in school rather than risking life and limb because their families are desperate for income," he added.
In a period of labour shortages and supply chain disruptions in the United States, labour experts told Reuters that there is a greater chance that children, particularly undocumented migrants, will wind up in hazardous and illegal for minors workplaces.
Reuters earlier this year recounted how a Guatemalan minor who fled to the United States alone found work at a local chicken processing business in Enterprise, home to a thriving poultry industry.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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