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Amazon supplier investigated over working conditions in Chinese factory

'They were underpaid... That’s illegal,' says China Labour Watch

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 11 June 2018 14:28 BST
A 94-page report detailed the findings of a nine-month investigation into working conditions in a Chinese factory that makes Amazon Kindle e-readers
A 94-page report detailed the findings of a nine-month investigation into working conditions in a Chinese factory that makes Amazon Kindle e-readers (Getty Images)

A factory in China that manufactures Amazon Kindle e-readers and Echo Dot smart speakers is under investigation over alleged mistreatment of workers, following a nine-month investigation into working conditions.

US-based advocacy group China Labour Watch published a string of allegations regarding working conditions at the Hengyang factory of Foxconn, one of the online retail giant’s suppliers.

Its report claimed workers were required to work more than 100 hours of monthly overtime during periods of peak production, and found one instance of people working 14 straight days without a day off.

“All workers are subject to long hours and low wages,” the report claimed. “As wages are low, workers must rely on overtime hours to earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living.”

In response to the report, contract manufacturer Foxconn said it was investigating the claims, stating: “We are carrying out a full investigation of the areas raised by that report, and if found to be true, immediate actions will be taken to bring the operations into compliance with our code of conduct.”

According to the report by China Labor Watch, around 40 per cent of workers were dispatch workers, despite Chinese law stating that companies should be limited to just 10 per cent of their workforce being dispatch workers.

Dispatch workers were paid at the same rate for regular and overtime hours, rather than time-and-a-half as required, said China Labor Watch programme officer Elaine Lu.

“They were underpaid,” Lu said. “That’s illegal.”

Dispatch workers reportedly earned 14.5 yuan (£1.69) per hour. Workers also put in more than 100 overtime hours per month during peak season, far more than the 36 hours allowed by law.

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Amazon said it audited the factory in March and found overtime and use of dispatch workers were “issues of concern”.

“We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn,” Amazon said in a statement. It said it was monitoring Foxconn’s response and “compliance with our supplier code of conduct. We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved.”

A letter from Amazon director Kara Hurst, responding to the report’s author, said the retailer “tracks remediation closely and conducts follow-up assessments based on findings”. The company recognised “our responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of factory workers manufacturing products for Amazon”, she added.

Foxconn said in an earlier statement that it “works hard to comply with all relevant laws and regulations” where it operates and conducts regular audits. “If infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them,” it said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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