Hyundai plans to terminate ties with two Alabama-based suppliers over alleged abuses involving child labour, according to Reuters. Smart Alabama and SL Alabama are the subject of an investigation by the Alabama Department of Labor, following a report detailing children as young as 12 working in a manufacturing environment.
Claims of alleged child labor emerged in July, with a focus on Smart Alabama LLC in Luverne. The facility manufactures parts for the Elantra, Sonata and Santa Fe, and supplies parts to Hyundai’s large Montgomery plant. In the company’s filing, Hyundai lists Smart Alabama LLC as majority-owned. A second supplier, SL Alabama LLC, was also investigated for the 13-year-old worker. Alabama’s labor laws require factory workers to be at least 18 years old.
Hyundai Global Chief Operating Officer Jose Munoz told Reuters on October 19 that the automaker plans to end its relationship with the supplier as soon as possible, although a specific timeframe was not given. Munoz also indicated that Hyundai is conducting a broader investigation across its US-based supply chain to ensure compliance with labor laws.
When reports of potential child labor first surfaced in July, a Hyundai spokesperson offered this statement to Motor1.com:
Hyundai does not tolerate illegal employment practices in any Hyundai entity. We have policies and procedures that require compliance with all local, state, and federal laws.
As for suppliers, Reuters reported that both relied on outside staffing firms to recruit and hire employees. SL Alabama has reportedly ended a relationship with one firm and hired a law firm to conduct an audit. Smart Alabama has so far been silent about the alleged breach.
The controversy began in February when Reuters learned about a 13-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl who briefly disappeared from her home in Alabama. An interview with the family revealed that he, along with two brothers aged 12 and 15, had worked at Smart Alabama LLC. Subsequent interviews with current and former workers in the factory showed as many as 50 underage employees worked in various shifts.