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Archive for August 14th, 2013

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Brazilian labor advocate group Repórter Brasil depicts poor working conditions at Samsung’s Manaus plant as the Brazilian version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” Source: Agência de Comunicações do Governo do Estado do Amazonas

Brazil’s ministry of labor of has filed a civil-action lawsuit against Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. seeking 250 million reais (US$108 million) in damages for what it said is poor working conditions at the company’s assembly lines in the country’s free trade zone.

In the lawsuit filed on August 9, the government said its audit turned up serious labor violation at a Samsung plant employing about 6,000 workers in the Manaus Free Trade Zone in the state of Amazonas.

Addiction to Speed

The Brazilian government’s allegations corroborate an earlier report by Repórter Brasil,  a São Paulo-based labor advocacy group.

At the Manaus plant, workers work up to 10 hours at a time on their feet, packaging electronics goods literally within seconds.  The following is the breakdown of time and movements spent on packaging an electronic item by a team of about ten Samsung employees in Brazil as revealed by Repórter Brasil:

  Item   Number of Movements Time (in seconds)
  TV   87-96   65
  Speaker   112-142   38
  Cellular phone   64-110   32.7
  Tablet   50-91   85

Modern Times?

The Brazilian advocacy group depicted the plant “the Brazilian version of Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times.

Many workers make 6,800 repetitive motions a day.  Some have worked 27 days straight.  They are allowed two separate ten-minute breaks a day and fined by the company when exceeding ten minutes.

In 2012 alone, more than 2,000 workers suffered from a variety of health problems such as chronic back injuries, according the Brazilian government.

“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,” Samsung said in a statement, hiding behind its usual vague language.

Samsung:  Corporate Recidivist 

This is not the first time that Samsung has had a run-in with the law in Brazil.  In 2011, Samsung paid the Brazilian government about US$200,000 to settle labor abuse charges.  And its current lawsuit is merely the latest revelations of widespread labor abuse at Samsung’s global supply chain.

The following are reports filed in the past 11 months on this blog on labor abuses and industrial incidents at Samsung:

Samsung Accused Of Labor Rights Violations In China

Samsung Seen Covering Up Fatal Gas Leaks At Its Chip Plant

Samsung Continues to Cover Up Fatal Chemical Leaks With More Lies

Samsung Receives Slap On The Wrist For Fatal Chemical Leaks

Another Fatal Accident Hits A Samsung Plant

Samsung Outsources Fatality Risk To Contractors

On SHARPS

As of March 2012, SHARPS has profiled 155 workers who contracted various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis, and aplastic anemia after employment in the electronics industry in South Korea.   As of June 2, 2012, 63 of the 155 have died.  The majority of the workers, 138, were employed at Samsung Electronics, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Samsung SDS—the three electronics affiliates of the Samsung Group. Among the 63 deaths were 56 Samsung employees.

Correction.  An earlier version of this blog post misstated the amount of damages sought by the Brazilian government as US$250 million.  The correct amount is 250 million reais or US$208 million.  

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