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Workers not paid legally by Amazon contractor in China
US tech giant admits audit of Foxconn factory in Hengyang found irregularities


Amazon has admitted that thousands of agency workers who make its Echo smart speakers and Kindles in China were hired and paid illegally.


The US giant issued a statement regretting “issues of concern” following an investigation by the Observer and the US-based China Labor Watch into the “unethical and illegal” working conditions at its supplier factory in Hengyang.


Amazon disclosed that its own auditors visited the Foxconn factory in March and found that it had hired an illegally high number of agency workers and was not paying them properly for working overtime.


Agency staff – known as dispatch workers in China – do not get sick pay or holiday pay and can be laid off without wages during lulls in production. China changed its labour laws in 2014 to limit their use to 10% of any workforce in an attempt to stop companies exploiting them to cut costs.


The China Labor Watch investigation – published on Sunday in association with the Observer – found that more than 40% of the staff in the Foxconnfactory were agency workers. Those working overtime were being paid at the normal hourly rate instead of the time-and-a-half required by Chinese law and by Amazon’s own supplier code of conduct.


In its statement, Amazon said: “Amazon takes reported violations of our supplier code of conduct extremely seriously. In the case of the FoxconnHengyang 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. We are committed to ensuring these issues are resolved.”


The investigation also reveals that the Hengyang workers are paid far less than Foxconn workers in other Chinese cities. They earn a basic monthly wage of 1,750 yuan (£204), while workers at Foxconn’s factory manufacturing for Apple in Shenzhen start on a basic 2,400 yuan (£280).

调查还显示,衡阳工人的薪酬远低于中国其他城市的富士康员工。 他们的基本月工资为1750元人民币(204英镑),而富士康在深圳的给苹果代工的工人的基本工资为2400元人民币(280英镑)

The investigation produced payslip evidence to show that workers can work up to 80 hours of overtime in a month, rather than the 36 hours normally permitted by law. However, companies can and do secure exemptions. Workers at the factory also have to ask for permission from supervisors to go to the toilet.
工资条显示工人可以每月加班80小时,而不是法律所允许的36小时, 当然,公司可以获得豁免权。 同时,工人上厕所须先征得主管同意。

Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, wrote to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, last month, setting out the findings. “This violates Chinese labour law. Foxconn uses a large number of dispatch workers and violates workers’ interests via these dispatch companies. This practice, in and of itself, is unethical and illegal,” he wrote. “I hope that you can compel your suppliers to improve their working situations and to manufacture Amazon products under ethical conditions.”

中国劳工观察执行董事李强上月致信亚马逊首席CEO杰夫贝佐斯,说明其调查结果。 “此行为违反了中国劳动法。 富士康使用大量合同工,进而通行外包公司侵犯了工人的权益。 这种做法本身是不道德和非法的。 我们希望你能要求供应商改善工作环境,并在道德的条件下制造亚马逊产品。”

Kara Hartnett Hurst, Amazon’s head of worldwide sustainability, wrote back saying: “Amazon recognises our responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of factory workers manufacturing products for Amazon.”


China Labor Watch’s investigator – who spent a month at the factory, posing as a dispatch worker – reported workers slumped, exhausted, over their work benches trying to catch a few minutes’ sleep during breaks.


Amazon and Foxconn have both faced repeated criticism for their treatment of workers, but this is the first time Amazon’s manufacturing operation has been investigated.


Bezos is worth an estimated £83bn and the Foxconn chief executive, Terry Gou, has a fortune estimated at £6.1bn.


The investigation found that many workers earn about £233 a month, less than half the national living wage of £530, calculated for China by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance. The standard hourly rate of 14.5 yuan (£1.69) is £1 less than the £2.69-an-hour national average for a factory worker in China.

调查发现,很多工人每月挣约233英镑,,不到中国全国生活工资530英镑的一半(根据亚洲基本工资联盟对中国的计算)。 标准工资每小时14.5元(1.69英镑),比中国工厂工人平均2.69少1英镑。

Li said that the use of agency staff was designed to save money. “The factory employs dispatch workers as a means to cut manufacturing costs,” he said. “Amazon is only concerned about whether or not its supplier factories are completing orders in time and is generally apathetic towards the working conditions.” The result was that workers were left struggling to make a living.

李说,使用合同工的目的是为了省钱。 “工厂雇佣外派工作为降低制造成本的手段,亚马逊只关心供应商有无准时交货,并且通常漠视工作条件。”结果是,工人为了生存而苦苦挣扎。

“The wages at Hengyang Foxconn are not enough to sustain a livelihood and workers must put in overtime hours so that they earn a sufficient amount to have a decent standard of living. The factory even cuts the overtime hours of workers as a form of punishment.”

“衡阳富士康的工资不足以维持生计,工人必须加班加点来赚够生活费。 工厂甚至将减少加班时间作为惩罚手段。

Foxconn said it had a strict company policy of not commenting on matters related to current or potential customers, or any of their products. In a statement, it said that it provided a positive working environment and was committed to ensuring that all aspects of its business complied with industry standards. “Foxconn works hard to comply with all relevant laws and regulations in all markets where we operate,” it said. It added that regular audits were carried out “and if infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them”.

富士康表示有严格的公司政策,不对与当前或潜在客户或其任何产品有关的事宜发表任何评论。 它在声明中表示有提供积极的工作环境,并致力于确保其业务的所有方面符合行业标准。 “富士康努力遵守所在市场的所有相关法律法规”。同时还补充说有进行定期审计,“如果发现违规行为,我们会立即纠正”。