Reports of a 2018 investigation by China Labour Watch (CLW) into the Amazon Echo manufacture at the Hengyang Foxconn factory show that the recruiting of young interns from vocational schools could mean that the Amazon devices are made with the help of child labour.
Schools Providing Workers For Night Shifts
The report of the investigation by New York-based non-profit group CLW claims that a number of interns from schools and colleges were brought in to work night shifts and if they were unwilling to work overtime or night shifts, the factory would arrange for teachers to pressure those workers. The report also claims that if those interns refused to work overtime and night shifts, the factory requested teachers from their schools to sack them from the job.
In addition to the night shift work, the report claims that young interns were required to work ten hours a day, including two hours of overtime, and to work six days a week.
Which Schools and Colleges?
The report claims that schools sending interns to work at the Hengyang Foxconn factory which manufactures Amazon Echo devices included Sinosteel Hengyang Heavy Machinery Workers Technical College, Hengyang Technician College, Hengyang Vocational Secondary School, Hengyang Industrial Workers College, and Hengnan County Technical School.
Teachers and Schools Paid
The worrying report also claims that teachers assigned to the factory put immense pressure on interns and sometimes resorted to violence and aggression against interns. Teachers who helped at the factory are reported to have received a 3000 RMB ($425) subsidy from the factory, with their school receiving 3RMB ($0.42) for every hour an intern worked.
The report also claims that the factory had hired a high number of dispatch workers, violating Chinese labour law.
13 Violations Listed
The report lists 13 violations that Amazon has allegedly made at the factory including interns working night shifts and overtime, and interns having to keep their heads down at their workstation for an extended period while doing repetitive motions.
What Does Amazon Say?
Amazon has been reported as saying that it is investigating the allegations and has sent representatives to the factory site as part of that investigation. Amazon is also keen to promote the fact that it has a supplier Code of Conduct, and that suppliers are regularly assessed in relation to this.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Child labour is generally a feature of the world’s poorest countries, where, according to UNICEF, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health. For example, International Labour Organisation (ILO) figures show that almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa, 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific, and 10.7 million in the Americas.
Sadly, labour laws in China are not as strictly enforced as in other countries, and although Foxconn may be keen to promote the idea that internships at the factory are the way for young people to gain practical work experience, the report’s allegations of children working long hours and nightshifts while being pressured by teachers doesn’t appear to fit in with that picture.
While most of us like to purchase lower-priced goods, we are often unaware of how they were made and at whose expense. Companies need to keep costs down, but child labour is something that most businesses would actively avoid and is something that consumers certainly do not like the idea of. These allegations, therefore, could have a negative impact on Amazon, thereby adding to some its other recent troubled headlines such as reports last year of Amazon’s profits trebling while its UK tax bill was significantly reduced, and how on Amazon’s Prime Day sale this year, thousands of their workers protested at sites around the world demanding better working conditions.