Amazon Accused of Illegal Working Conditions

The global e-commerce giant has come under fire in the past for its alleged poor working conditions and low wages, but most recently, the employment practices at Hengyang Foxconn, the plant responsible for producing Amazon’s Kindle, Echo Dot, and tablets have been put under the microscope.

China Labor Watch launched an investigation into the company’s employment practices, as well as other manufacturing businesses across the country in August 2017. The investigation finished in April this year, and the results of the investigation have now been made public.

The labor watch reportedly discovered that Foxconn manufacturing has been hiring temporary workers (dispatch workers) through a staffing agency, with these staff not receiving the proper safety training. Under Chinese labour law, businesses are allowed to employ seasonal workers, allowing their numbers do not exceed 10 percent of the workforce. According to the report from China Labor Watch, 40 percent of Foxconn’s off-season workforce are dispatch workers.

The report also claims that these workers are underpaid, expected to fulfil illegal overtime requirements, and are exposed to safety hazards, all while being treated poorly by permanent staff and factory supervisors.

“Dispatch workers earn 14.5 RMB/hour ($2.26 USD) and are paid the same rate for normal hours and overtime hours. The hourly rate includes an attendance bonus, and workers who take more than two days off or are late more than twice a month would receive wages calculated by a 13.5 RMB/hour ($2.11 USD) standard for the month,” the report revealed.

Staff training practices have also been scrutinised, with China Labor Watch claiming temporary staff receive only a fraction of the required safety training, exposing them to a greater level of risk while on the job.

“Whilst regular workers receive five days of training, dispatch workers only receive eight hours of training, which is well below the legal stipulation of 24 hours of pre-job safety training. Dispatch workers are also required to pay the physical examination fees, whereas some regular workers reported not having to pay any fees for the physical examination,” the report says.

Since the report was released on June 10, Foxconn has released a statement to the media, claiming it is investigating the allegations made against its business.

“We are carrying a full investigation of the areas raised in the report, and if found to be true, immediate actions will be taken to bring the operations into compliance with our Code of Conduct,” a spokesperson for Foxconn said.

Amazon has also responded to media pressure, telling Retail Dive in an email that it takes “reported violations of its Supplier Code of Conduct extremely seriously”. The e-commerce business says it completed its regular audit of the Foxconn Hengyang factory back in March, and flagged two issues that the business is in the process of resolving. No details were provided on what the two issues were.

However, China Labor Watch isn’t quite so forgiving, saying Amazon is responsible for ensuring it has an ethical supply chain.

“Amazon has the ability to not only ensure its supplier factories respect the rights of workers but also that there is equal pay for equal work. Amazon’s profits have come at the expense of workers who labor in appalling working conditions and have no choice but to work excessive overtime hours to sustain a livelihood.”

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