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Amazon has agreed to review its labor practices at Foxconn plant in China where its popular Echo Dot smart speakers are assembled.

Amazon’s Echo Dot, Kindles made in factory where workers were abused

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Amazon has agreed to review its labor practices at Foxconn plant in China where its popular Echo Dot smart speakers are assembled. (Photo: pianodiaphragm / Shutterstock.com)

SAN FRANCISCO — The Chinese plant where Amazon’s popular Echo Dot smart speakers are assembled underpaid workers, some of whom worked as many as 14 consecutive days and more than 100 overtime hours per month, according to a U.S.-based labor rights group.

Amazon says it knew of problems at the plant and has requested corrective action.

The report by China Labor Watch found that the Foxconn plant in Hengyang in China broke multiple Chinese labor laws, underpaying workers and subjecting them to verbal abuse. More than 40% of the staff there were temporary employees, while China only allows 10% of any workforce to be temps.

Taiwan-based Foxconn, officially Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., had been dogged for over a decade by reports of labor abuses, mandatory long hours, unpaid overtime, poor working conditions and high rates of suicide among its workers. Much of the reporting has centered around Apple’s iPhone, as Foxconn is one of the primary assemblers of the popular smart phones. 

Foxconn is planning on building a $10 billion electronics factory in Racine County, Wisconsin. The company said Monday it plans to employ as many was 13,000 across the state.

Until now Amazon has not been subject to as much bad press over labor conditions overseas, in part because it made so few devices. The growing popularity of its Echo series of smart speakers has meant the Seattle-based company is increasingly prominent as a device manufacturer.

Both Kindles and Echo Dots are assembled at the Hengyang Foxconn plant. The 94-page China Labor Watch report found that temp workers were not paid overtime and unlike full-time workers, did not receive sufficient safety training.  

The Amazon Dot retails for $49.99. According to China Labor Watch, the temp workers earn $2.26 per hour.

All workers at the plant put in as much as 100 overtime hours during peak seasons and the group found instances when workers had to work 14 days in a row. 

Worker dormitories did not have emergency exits or fire extinguishers and the escape routes were not labelled. Management also subjected workers to verbal abuse, the group reported.

Worker safety is an ongoing problem in Chinese plants. A fire in a restaurant workers’ dormitory in Jiangsu Province in China last July killed at least 22 workers. 

Amazon completed its most recent audit of the plant in March and said it had found two issues of concern, which it immediately asked Foxconn to address. Amazon is now conducting regular assessments to monitor implementation and compliance with its supplier code of conduct, it said.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Foxconn said it is conducting an investigation into the issues reported by China Labor Watch. It said that all overtime work was voluntary and that it required the employment agencies with which it works to abide by Chinese law.

 

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