A factory in China that builds Amazon Kindles and Echo Dot devices is facing accusations of worker mistreatment over low pay and long hours.
To cut costs, a Foxconn-owned factory in Hengyang, China, has hired about 2,000 temporary “dispatch workers,” which it can lay off at any time, according to an investigation by China Labor Watch. Those same workers earn about $2.26 an hour, and can end up raking in 100 hours in overtime a month to make up for the low wages.
The long hours and Foxconn’s hiring of so many dispatch workers at the plant violate local labor regulations, the watchdog group said in a new report on Sunday. “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,” China Labor Watch claimed.
Amazon is aware of the problems. In an email, the company told PCMag that it audited the Foxconn factory in March. Both the hiring of dispatch workers and overtime were identified as “issues of concern” that Amazon requested Foxconn address.
“We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved,” the company added. Foxconn also told Reuters it’s investigating the factory over the reported labor violations.
The factory in Hengyang employs about 4,500 workers, 40 percent of whom are dispatch workers. According to Chinese law, the factory must cap its dispatch workers at 10 percent.
China Labor Watch sent several investigators to the plant between August 2017 and April 2018. One investigator was hired as a worker at the factory for a job that involved wiping the dust off hundreds of Amazon Echo Dot speakers each day with a toothbrush dipped in rubbing alcohol.
“I thought about China’s cheap labor and wondered exactly how cheap that labor was,” the unnamed investigator describes in the report. “I thought working on this production line was just too exhausting.”
According China Labor Watch, workers can earn around 4,000 RMB ($624) a month during the peak production season, but only when they log 100 hours in overtime. Despite the long hours, the dispatch workers prefer to work more to increase their pay.
However, China Labor Watch argues that Amazon and Foxconn should increase the base wages at the factory (at 1,750 RMB), so that employees can earn a decent living income without exhausting themselves.
“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,” the watchdog group said in its report.