This is the second time that Amazon and the Taiwanese company have come under scrutiny for their treatment of workers at the factory in the central city Hengyang. China Labor Watch criticized the facility last year, which produces Echo speakers and Kindle e-readers for Amazon for relying on temporary workers. These workers include high school interns, with workers expected to work overtime beyond the legal limits.
Foxconn, in a statement on Friday, said it had fired the factory's chief and head of human resources, as well as punishing managers found responsible for overseeing the use of interns, in a new report by digitalcommerce360.com. China Labor Watch had the following to say: “Amazon and Foxconn responded that they would make improvements to the factory’s working conditions. However, CLW’s 2019 investigation found that Foxconn’s working conditions did not improve, and instead deteriorated.”
The China Labor Watch deemed the wages too low to support a 'decent standard of living', which were slashed by another 16% in 2019. The New York-based group cited documents it obtained last Thursday. The salary hasn't been sufficient to attract full-time workers to the factory, which requires more than 7,000 employees to operate 58 assembly lines during peak production that begins in July. To make up for the lack of employees, Foxconn relied heavily on interns as young as 16 from vocational institutions. China Labor Watch went on to say that these interns were forced to work overtime.
In the advocacy group's report, one 17-year-old computing major at a vocational high school said she had started working at the factory in July. Her teacher told her the internship would require 40 hour work weeks putting a protective film over hockey puck-shaped Echo Dot smart speakers as they came down the factory line. Some weeks ago, she was asked to start doing overtime totaling 60 hours a week. After complaining to her manager, her teacher warned her that turning down overtime could jeopardize her graduation. That, again, is according to China Labor Watch.
Foxconn stated it recently conducted a review of its Hengyang facility and came to the conclusion that the proportion of contract workers and student interns had, on occasion, exceeded legal thresholds, and some interns had been allowed to work overtime or nights. In an emailed statement last Thursday, the company said, "We were not in full compliance with all the relevant laws and regulations."
Foxconn went on to say, “Effective immediately, the percentage of interns assigned to that facility will be brought into full compliance with the relevant labor law." They have since gone on record that they're taking immediate steps to ensure interns will no longer work overtime or nights.
Here is a run-down of what China Labor Watch's report unearthed:
- Interns from local vocational schools accounted for more than 20% of the plant’s current workforce, double the levels permitted by law
- Such student workers were forced to work night shifts and overtime, in violation of the law, and that some interns were physically and verbally abused by teachers overseeing their work
- The factory used “dispatch workers” – similar to temporary staff in the U.S. – for around one in three positions at the plant, in excess of the 10% permitted by law
- Some 375 workers had been asked to work overtime on Sunday without receiving makeup days off, contrary to labor rules that stipulate at least one scheduled day off per week
Foxconn has been wrestling with allegations of worker mistreatment for years. Founded by billionaire Terry Gou, it became the world's main assembler of iPhones, with an estimated workforce of over a million workers drawn from China's huge population of migrant laborers. These problems can be found as far back as 2010, when a breakout of worker suicides prompted strong criticism forced Foxconn to pledge an overhaul to its systems.
This latest report clearly shows how managers struggled to offset a 33% fall in business from January to September period, which came from U.S. president Trump's increasing tariffs on Chinese-made goods slowed the demand for electronics and trade. According to the China Labor Watch report, Foxconn is guilty of exploiting temp workers to cut costs, whilst cutting both overtime and base pay rates and eliminating a hiring bonus and living subsidy. With these arcane business practices, it is no wonder that Amazon is no. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 100.