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Watchdog raps Amazon, Foxconn

Reuters NEW YORK (Reuters) — A U.S. watchdog group criticized Amazon.com Inc. 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 overreliance 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 Co., is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and employs more than a million people.

Foxconn, which also makes Apple Inc.’s 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 percent of workers at the plant were dispatch workers, far exceeding the 10 percent 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 ($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 in a statement it audited the factory in March and found “two issues of concern.”

“We immediately requested a corrective action plan from Foxconn,” Amazon said, adding it is monitoring Foxconn’s response and “compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved.”

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