Watchdog raps Amazon, Foxconn

Terry Gou chairman of Taiwan's Foxconn his firm is again under fire for allegedly exploiting workers

Terry Gou chairman of Taiwan's Foxconn his firm is again under fire for allegedly exploiting workers

A USA watchdog group criticized Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and contract manufacturer Foxconn over what it described as harsh working conditions at a plant in China that makes the retail giant's Echo Dot smart speaker and Kindle e-reader.

A labour watchdog group has called out Amazon for its poor factory conditions at its Chinese facility where Echo devices and Kindles are built.

The probe also found that the Hengyang workers were paid less than Foxconn workers in other Chinese cities - earning a monthly wage of 1,750 yuan ($273 US), while those at a Foxconn factory in Shenzen start at 2,400 ($375) yuan. Dispatch workers didn't receive higher wages for overtime hours and were offered only unpaid sick leave, and were required to cover their own fees for a physical examination when starting work at the factory.

"All workers are subject to long hours and low wages", the report said.

Contract manufacturer Foxconn said yesterday it would launch an investigation into the plant.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Foxconn said it is conducting an investigation into the issues reported by China Labor Watch.

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The report alleged working conditions between despatch workers and regular workers was "markedly different" with regular workers receiving five days of training compared to despatch workers receiving just eight hours of training.

"During interviews with 20 employees, China Labour Watch found that 2,000, or 44% of Hengyang Foxconn's total workforce of 4,500 were "dispatch" employees, who work on temporary contracts". The company promised that it would improve working conditions.

Amazon said the issues at the factory were discovered during an audit in March. Back in 2010, Foxconn's Longhua factory, where it produces iPhones, was blamed for a series of worker suicides.

Amazon said it took action against the violations, including a request for a "corrective action plan" from the Hengyang factory as well as "regular assessments" to be sure that Foxconn enacts the necessary changes. And while dispatch workers put in over 100 hours of overtime a month during the peak season, they're only supposed to work more than 36 overtime hours.

It said it is monitoring Foxconn's response and "compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are committed to ensuring these issues are resolved", the company added.

Salary reviews are conducted regularly, and all full-time and temporary employees receive "both pre-job training and additional training in their assigned departments", Foxconn said in a June 10 statement. "If infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them", it said.

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