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I think we all already knew that Foxconn was not the only China manufacturer with tough labour conditions. Indeed, those of you with business experience over here know that Foxconn is nowhere near the worst employer. I wonder if Foxconn honcho Terry Gou is quietly chuckling to himself over the release of this latest labour rights investigation:First it was Apple and Foxconn, now Motorola, AT&T, Sony, Deutsche Telekom and others have come under the spotlight after a new report made shocking allegations of human and labour rights violations at the Chinese factories of technology supplier VTech.
Not-for-profit the Institute for Labour and Global Human Rights said it commissioned a private research firm to gather evidence and interview staff from one of VTech’s three factories in Dongguan City, Guangdong province, where around 10,000 workers produce cordless and corded phones, phone components and circuit boards.
VTech products made at the factory and its two other plants in the city are sold all over the US by big name retailers such as Staples, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sears and Kmart. (The Register)
Apple is probably also happy that the China-labour-issue pain is now being spread to others. That being said, though, what are the allegations here?
The VTech Sweatshop in China report alleges widespread abuses which even manage to top some of those levelled at Apple and Foxconn, including forced and excessive overtime; exposure to harmful chemicals; sub-standard living conditions; violence and bullying towards staff; and below subsistence wages.
Sounds rather familiar. Anything else?
The most shocking allegations, though, involve treatment of staff and living conditions.
Staff are forced to stand for 12 to 15 hours a day, minus an hour’s lunch break where they are fed miserable looking victuals, and live in prison-like dorms with no curtains, air-conditioning or mattresses, according to the report. There are no showers and staff have to queue up to take sponge baths using buckets of water, it adds.
There is a strict disciplinary system at the factory. Erring staff apparently run the risk of being handed an Employee Criminal Record which could lead to docked wages, while managers are rewarded for reporting others’ mistakes, the report alleged.
Also detailed are what the Institute claims are first person accounts from workers describing their miserable lives at the plant, including suicides by co-workers and physical abuse of staff by security guards, although most of these seem to date from 2010.
Terrible? Perhaps. Shocking? Hardly. While these conditions are not at all pleasant, and some of the allegations might rise to the level of illegal, none of that is at all abnormal when it comes to factories in Dongguan.
As far as exposés go, this one is a bit lacking in terms of news. But who knows, maybe Mike Daisey can come over here again and do some additional digging. You never know what he might come up with.
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