New Report Uncovers Conditions in Amazon's Chinese Factories

From August 2017 to April 2018, investigators from China Labor Watch investigated Hengyan Foxconn, a factory that manufactures electronic products for Amazon, including Kindle, Echo Dot smart speakers, and Amazon tablets.

The investigation uncovered a series of labor abuses affecting regular workers and dispatch workers, who are temporary workers hired through an employment agency. Although the investigators discovered that regular workers and dispatch workers suffer from difficult working conditions, they also reported that that dispatch workers regularly face worse treatment than regular workers, despite working in the same positions. Dispatch workers make up 40 percent of the workforce of the factory, which exceeds the legal maximum of threshold of 10 percent. Since dispatch workers are technically employed by their companies and not the factories themselves, they are more susceptible to workplace abuse as workplace grievances have to be handled through their employing company, rather than the factory itself.

Some of the report’s other findings include:

  • Unfairly low wages: Wages are so low that workers must rely on overtime to make ends meet. The average wage in the region is around $700 USD/month, while the average wage of factory workers is between $312 - $468/month. Furthermore, regular workers are paid overtime wages while dispatch workers are paid at the same rate for overtime hours worked.
  • Disparity in training: while regular workers received five days worth of training, dispatch workers only received eight hours of training. The law requires at least 24 hours of training.
  • Excessive overtime and unpaid leave: During peak production months, workers put in an average of 100 hours of overtime every month; however, legally workers are not supposed to put in more than 36 hours of overtime a month. During off-season months, regular workers are not given any overtime hours while dispatch workers go on unpaid leave.
  • Insufficient safety measures: including a lack of protective equipment, and inadequate fire safety measures in worker dormitories.

The report is a sobering insight into the working conditions behind some of America’s favorite electronic products. While Amazon has commented on the report, saying that it will look into the labor violations in the Foxconn factory, it is not enough – the Hengyang Foxconn factory is just one of their many supplier factories. Amazon must do more to ensure that its suppliers are treating all of their workers fairly.

You can read the full report at the China Labor Watch website.

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