Samsung under fire for alleged labor abuses in Brazil

The tech giant is slapped with a lawsuit that accuses it of rampant employee overtime and poor working conditions in one of its Brazilian smartphone factories.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

Prosecutors in Brazil have filed a lawsuit against Samsung accusing the company of violating labor rights in the country by allegedly having employees in one of its factories work extremely long shifts for dozens of days in a row.

According to Reporter Brasil, a Brazilian news agency that reports on labor issues, the lawsuit was filed after the Ministry of Labor and Employment uncovered alleged egregious working conditions after two inspections at a Samsung factory in the Zona Franca de Manaus -- where some of the company's smartphones are assembled.

9to5Google translated parts of the Reporter Brasil article, which detailed employees allegedly working more than 10 to 15 hours per day, on their feet, without any breaks. Some of the Samsung employees were said to work up to 27 days in a row.

According to the Ministry of Labor investigations, the workers also allegedly assembled parts more quickly than was considered safe -- they were said to have carried out up to three times as many strokes per minute than required safety limits. Apparently, the Manaus plant has roughly 5,600 employees and it has supposedly received 2,018 worker requests to be removed for health issues, such as back problems, tendonitis, and bursitis.

"The company does not have the proper management for occupational health," Ministry of Labor investigator Romulo Lins said, according to Reporter Brasil. "Nor is it trying to solve the problem."

When contacted by CNET, a Samsung spokesperson said, "Once we receive the complaint in question, we will conduct a thorough review and fully cooperate 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."

The lawsuit is seeking damages of roughly $110 million for the factory's employees.

This isn't the first time that Samsung has come under fire for poor working conditions. Several times in last fall, the company was accused of partnering with manufacturers that allegedly employed child workers. It was also accused of requiring employees to work overtime, along with other labor abuses at some of its own factories. Samsung said last year that it looked into these allegations to ensure proper working conditions.

"Samsung abides by all labor and human right laws in each region it operates and strictly enforces bans on child labor, forced labor, and workplace discrimination," a company spokespersontold CNET in November.

Samsung's top competitor -- Apple -- has also repeatedly come under scrutiny for a whole host of alleged labor rights violations in several of the factories where its iPhones and iPads are manufactured. These allegations led Apple to request an audit of the factories by the Fair Labor Association and also to seek partnerships with different manufacturing companies.

(Via 9to5Google)

Updated August 14 at 6:50 a.m. PT with comment from Samsung spokesperson.