Electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn has stated it is to investigate conditions at a factory responsible for producing Amazon-branded devices, following a report from US-based campaign group China Labour Watch.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., better known as Foxconn Technology Group and one of the world's largest and most successful manufacturing companies, is a company not exactly short of a bob or two: In the last couple of years it has paid out billions of pounds to acquire Sharp and Belkin while also pledging to open a US factory in Wisconsin. That cash, though, is claimed to come at the cost of its workforce, according to a report by advocacy group China Labour Watch.
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. Those investigators, the group claims, found that around 40 percent of the workforce was made up of badly-paid and ill-treated temporary dispatch workers, more than the 10 percent maximum permitted by 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. The temporary workers are further claimed to receive no overtime pay, being paid a flat rate of $2.26 an hour regardless of how long they have been working and dropping to $2.11 if they miss more than two days of work, and do not receive social insurance or housing contributions - the former being a requirement under Chinese labour law.
While the report focuses primarily on these dispatch workers, all factory workers are subjected to conditions the group claims are unacceptable: workers putting in over 100 hours of overtime in peak season with 14 consecutive working days, inadequate fire safety, lack of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), no labour union representation, and managers who subject them to 'verbal abuse'.
Foxconn, for its part, has said it will be investigating the claims. 'We are carrying out a full investigation of the areas raised by the report,' a company spokesperson claimed in a brief statement to press, 'and if found to be true, immediate actions will be taken to bring the operations into compliance with our Code of Conduct.'
This is far from the first time Foxconn has been accused of mistreating its workers, however: Back in 2013 the company was accused of using unpaid student 'interns' to build Sony PlayStation 4 consoles, and the company's response to a string of suicides, both attempted and successful, peaking in 2010 was to force employees to sign a waiver absolving the company of responsibility and, when the inevitable backlash from that move hit, to install safety netting around its facilities to catch anyone who jumped - and while it did increase wages for its staff as a result of the negative publicity, it did so alongside a corresponding increase to their output quota.
February 26 2021 | 22:15