August 14, 2013
Samsung Being Sued By Brazil Over Harsh Labor Practices
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung is facing a lawsuit filed by Brazil over allegations of worker abuse at its largest plant in Latin America. The Brazilian Ministry of Labor alleges that the company is engaged in poor working conditions at a Brazilian-based assembly plant.
The government claims it has discovered labor violations, including employees who work up to 27 days straight for more than 15 hours a day, often up to 10 hours each day on foot; as well, these employees have been found to be provided with insufficient breaks at Samsung’s Manaus factory. These working conditions reportedly led to 2,017 workers suffering from health problems including back injuries.
The Manaus plant is one of the largest of Samsung’s 25 factories worldwide, and currently employs 6,000 workers and supplies all of Latin America.
French news agency AFP further reported that individual workers at the plant are given just six seconds to place a phone with its battery, charger, earphones and instruction manual in its packaging and that this process is repeated up to 6,800 times per shift. The Brazilian government is reportedly seeking $108 million in damages.
Samsung responded on Wednesday that it would cooperate with Brazilian authorities.
“Once we receive the complaint in question, we will conduct a thorough review and fully co-operate with the Brazilian authorities. We take great care to provide a workplace environment that assures the highest industry standards of health, safety, and welfare for our employees across the world,” it said in a statement as reported by The Guardian newspaper.
It was previously prosecuted in Brazil in 2011 over poor working conditions and paid a settlement of approximately $200,000. In addition to the new lawsuit filed by the Brazilian government, the company reportedly faces some 1,200 legal complaints by workers at Manaus.
Last summer Samsung faced similar allegations at factories in China, as China Labor Watch announced that it had discovered “severe labor abuses” at six Samsung-owned factories and two of its suppliers, where workers were forced to stand for up to 12 hours at a time. Many workers also faced discrimination based on age, gender, and personal appearance.
The labor watch group also claimed that underaged workers were employed by at least three of the factories. Samsung announced last August that it would send inspectors to determine whether or not the allegations of child labor were true, and the company added that two previous inspections in factories in China had not shown any wrongdoing.
Samsung is not the only company in the spotlight for labor violations. Rival Apple faced scrutiny last month when China Labor Watch issued a new report claiming that Pegatron, one of Apple’s suppliers, had also been breaking labor laws.
The group claimed that Pegatron had withheld pay, forced workers to endure excessive overtime hours and employed minors. These practices are a violation of Chinese law and Apple’s supplier regulations. Apple, which has worked with China Labor Watch in the past, has since responded that it is committed to promoting “safe and fair working conditions” in its supply chain.