Illegal overtime at factories

REPORT | 16 December 2009
Mobile phone factory in China

Clear improvements have been observed at the two factories producing mobile phone chargers, but more efforts are needed to reduce overtime and eliminate problematic health tests.

One in two mobile phones is manufactured in China. In 2008 makeITfair published a report which described the poor working conditions at component factories in the country. A year later, two of the factories who manufacture mobile chargers for Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and LG, were re-examined. This showed that significant improvements had been implemented. Workers are fitted with protective equipment and health and safety training is given. This is extremely important because the production of electronics is associated with a range of health risks. In 2007, young women were working without protective masks at these two plants and were exposed to hazardous fumes at workstations that lacked adequate ventilation.

The standard of the factories’ sleeping and dining rooms was also unacceptable in 2007; however since then new owners have invested USD 2.5 million in order to improve the situation. These improvements are confirmed by staff interviewed by MakeITfair. However they state that a number of problems still remain, such as illegal overtime with health problems as a consequence. Just as in 2008 workers earn the lowest minimum wage if they work full time only. Consequently they need their overtime hours to make ends meet. A lot of additional work is often due to a combination of low wages and the fact that customers both add to and modify their orders at the last minute. makeITfair recommended that mobile companies change their requirements and their purchasing practices.

The study also indicates that employees are discriminated against based on age, gender and place of birth during the hiring process. They also perform legal, ethically dubious, liver function tests before hiring. Some medical tests have long been mandatory in China, but these test come with the risk of discrimination towards the most vulnerable workers who are migrant workers with poor health and are far from their homes so they lack an adequate safety net. makeITfair recommends that mobile companies work with their suppliers, together with local organisations that focus on this issue.

Made in collaboration with: MakeITfair