Rights violations found in Amazon supplier factory

14 June 2018

A Chinese factory mainly manufacturing products for Amazon has been involved in several human rights violations, an NGO has alleged.

An investigation into a factory run by Hengyang Foxconn supplying Amazon found agency workers employed there had received inadequate safety training, had been denied sick pay and were not receiving mandated social insurance contributions.

Amazon said it found two issues in its latest audit of the factory and had immediately asked for a corrective action plan from Hengyang Foxconn.

The allegations were outlined in a report by China Labor Watch, which said it had sent several investigators into a Hengyang Foxconn factory that manufactures Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, its Echo Dot smart speaker and tablets. The investigations took place between August 2017 and April 2018.

The report found conditions were different for agency workers compared to regular employees in the same positions. While regular workers received five days training, agency workers only received eight hours – well below the legally-mandated 24-hours of safety training. Agency workers were also were forced to pay physical examination fees, unlike some regular workers.

Agency staff were also paid a normal rate for overtime, while regular employees received an overtime wage, and would lose an “attendance bonus” if they took more than two days off or were late more than twice in one month.

The report also claimed that agency workers were not paid sick leave, were sent on unpaid leave during off-season, and did not receive social insurance or contributions to their housing provident fund, which helps middle and low-income workers pay for housing. Legally agency workers must be registered for social insurance and employers must make social insurance contributions, the report said.

Agency workers formed more than 40% of the workforce, higher than the a legally-mandated maximum of 10%.

While conditions were much better for regular workers, the report said all workers were subject to long hours and low wages and were sometimes forced to put in more than 100 overtime hours during peak season. In some cases employees were found to have worked for 14 days consecutively.

Investigators also criticised inadequate fire safety in the dormitory area of the factory, lack of protective equipment, absence of a functioning union and management who verbally abused workers.

The report said: “As wages are low, workers must rely on overtime hours to earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living. In spite of that, the factory cuts the overtime hours of workers as a form of punishment for those who take leave or have unexcused absences.

“Amazon’s profits have come at the expense of workers who labour in appalling working conditions and have no choice but to work excessive overtime hours to sustain a livelihood.

“Amazon has the ability to not only ensure its supplier factories respects the rights of workers but also that there is equal pay for equal work.”

Amazon said it took reported violations of its supplier code of conduct “extremely seriously” and regularly assessed suppliers using independent auditors as appropriate.

It said: “In the case of the Foxconn Hengyang factory, Amazon completed its most recent audit in March 2018 and identified two issues of concern. We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn Hengyang detailing their plan to remediate the issues identified, and we are conducting regular assessments to monitor for implementation and compliance with our supplier code of conduct.”

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