Amazon admits to labor violations at Echo speaker factory in China

Daniel Fowler
June 12, 2018

Foxconn workers at its factory in Hengyang were making Amazon Echo and Kindle devices, where an investigation by the Observer and China Labour Watch found "unethical and illegal" conditions.

Foxconn is a Taiwan-based electronics contract business, which is also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry. China Labour Watch goes on to describe how the workers at the factory were treated differently than the rest of the workforce, receiving no overtime wages and "very little" safety training.

Released this weekend, CLW's report is the result of 'several investigators' who infiltrated the Hengyang Foxconn facility, responsible for producing Amazon-branded devices including Echo smart speaker systems and Kindle tablets and eReaders.

The investigation also found that during peak production times, factory staff were working more than 100 hours of overtime a month - almost triple the 36 hours of overtime a month permitted under Chinese law.

These workers are claimed to receive just eight hours of training, to a permanent worker's five days, pay fees for mandatory physical examinations, do not receive paid sick leave, and are not scheduled to work - and thus not paid - when the factory is in its off season.

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"All workers are subject to long hours and low wages", the report said, noting workers at Foxconn's plant in the central China city of Hengyang made an average of $2.26 per hour.

An Amazon spokesman said: "Amazon takes reported violations of our Supplier Code of Conduct extremely seriously". The type of labour remains popular in China because the dispatch company - not the factory - is considered to be obligated to the worker, so factory operators can skirt the rules and abuse labour laws. Amongst a number of labor violations, the group discovered that laborers were required to work at least 100 hours of overtime per month- Chinese law caps overtime at 36 hours per month.

Amazon completed an audit of the factory in March and found violations regarding overtime and the use of dispatch workers, which it has asked Foxconn to remedy, it said in an emailed statement.

"We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn Hengyang detailing their plan to remediate the issues identified, and we are conducting regular assessments". "We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved". A 94-page report details poor working conditions barely two months after reports of strict rules restricting breaks at Amazon's United Kingdom fulfillment centers emerged.

Foxconn also responded, stating that salary reviews were conducted regularly and all full time as well as dispatch workers received pre-job training as well as additional training for their assigned departments. "If infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them", it said.

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