A U.S. watchdog group has criticised Amazon.com and contract manufacturer Foxconn over what it described as harsh working conditions at a plant in China that makes the retail giant's Echo Dot smart speaker and Kindle e-reader.
The 94-page report by New York-based China Labor Watch cited excessive hours, low wages, inadequate training and an over-reliance on "dispatch" or temporary workers in violation of Chinese law at the Hengyang Foxconn plant in Hunan province.
Taiwan-based Foxconn, known formally as Hon Hai Precision Industry, is the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer and employs more than a million people.
Foxconn, which also makes Apple iPhones, came under fire in 2010 for a spate of suicides at plants in China - Foxconn pledged to improve working conditions.
China Labor Watch said its nine-month investigation found that about 40 per cent of workers at the plant were dispatch workers, far exceeding the 10 per cent limit under Chinese law.
Dispatch workers were paid at the same rate for regular and overtime hours, rather than time and a half as required, said China Labor Watch program officer Elaine Lu.
"They were underpaid," Lu said. "That's illegal."
Dispatch workers earned 14.5 yuan (US$2.26) per hour, the report said. Workers also put in more than 100 overtime hours per month during peak season, far more than the 36 hours allowed by law, and some worked for 14 consecutive days.
Amazon said it audited the factory in March and found overtime and use of dispatch workers were "issues of concern."
"We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn," Amazon said in a statement. It said it is monitoring Foxconn's response and "compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved."
Foxconn said in an emailed statement that it "works hard to comply with all relevant laws and regulations" where it operates and conducts regular audits.
"If infractions are identified, we work to immediately rectify them," it said.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Reuters Beijing bureau; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.