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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 October 3 - 9  > Workers exploited under Amazon's glory (Part 6)
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2018 October 3 - 9 [LABOR]

Workers exploited under Amazon's glory (Part 6)

August 11, 2018
Multinational corporations in various industries, including the IT industry, employ a "manufacture entrusting" system for their systems of production. They use this system with the aim of making profits without hiring production workers.

Like these multinationals, Amazon recently began commissioning overseas companies to manufacture Amazon brand goods, such as "Echo" smart speakers and e-reader devices. At a Chinese factory of Taiwan-based Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Group which is one of Amazon's entrusting companies, cutting-edge products are assembled by workers who even work all the night under sweatshop-like working conditions.

This was recently revealed by the New York-based NGO working on human rights issues China Labor Watch (CLW) in its report based on the facts gathered by CLW researchers who were engaged in undercover investigations at the Foxconn Hengyang factory in Hunan province in China between August 2017 and April 2018.

According to the CLW report, 44% of 4,500 workers at the Hengyang factory were temporary workers dispatched there from staffing agencies. The percentage of dispatch workers far exceeded China's legal limit of 10%. During busy seasons, workers were forced to work more than 100 hours of overtime a month while the Chinese labor law limits monthly overtime to 36 hours. In addition, there were some workers who worked for 14 days without a day off.

Journals kept by the CLW undercover investigators illustrated how hard workers are forced to work under terrible conditions.

For example, in a journal entry for a certain day in March 2018, a CLW person, who was assigned to the job of wiping off the white dust on top of the smart speakers with a toothbrush at an assembly line, wrote:

"Between 2 AM to 3 AM, I felt like time moved especially slowly. The speakers that remained to be cleaned kept building up in front of me. The line technician came over and told me to brush faster and that my movements were too slow. […] 4 AM, when my eyes could no longer stay open. […] At 5:30 AM, […] The people in the packaging section were still working. I was absolutely exhausted and couldn't help but rest my head on the assembly line."

In another journal entry dated on April 6, 2018, a CLW person wrote about a female Chinese temporary worker who had pain in her stomach during work hours. The CLW investigator reported that the woman laid down on the production line and tears started flowing. Feeling very anxious, the undercover investigator asked nearby workers if the factory had a doctor and they said it didn't. The CLW inspector concluded that the factory did not even have the most basic medical equipment or health center.

The report pointed out that despite such exploitative working conditions, no temporary workers at Hengyang factory wished to obtain full-time positions because they want to work as many hours as possible. The CLW in its report explained that as wages are too low, dispatch workers must rely on overtime work to earn a living wage. The CLW added that the factory cuts the overtime hours of such workers as a form of punishment for errors at work and other rule infractions.

Under this circumstance, even during the off-season, the factory arranged with agency workers to go on leave, which led these workers eventually to voluntary resignation as they could not earn wages.

In conclusion, the CLW pointed out, "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."

(To be continued)

Past related articles:
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 5) [August 2, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 4) [August 1, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 3) [July 31, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 2) [July 30, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 1) [ July 29, 2018]

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