Samsung Sued For Labour Rights Violations In Brazil

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The Ministry of Labour demands breaks for workers, and £69.6 million in compensation

The Brazilian Ministry of Labour is suing Samsung for violation of labour laws, demanding $108 million (£69.6m) in compensation. The accusations are based on inspections conducted in 2011 and 2013, which found poor working conditions at a factory located in the free trading zone of Manaus.

According to labour rights group Reporter Brazil, long shifts, repetitive work and lack of breaks has led to widespread health problems among the Samsung workforce.

Bad for your health

The South Korean company’s factory in Manaus employs 5,600 people and makes the majority of Samsung smartphones sold in Latin America. The state prosecutors allege that its workers have to spend 10 to 15 hour shifts on foot in a badly designed workspace doing repetitive tasks, resulting in poor worker health.

Mark SchwettmannThe lawsuit cites low tables and lack of chairs as some of the causes of the problem. Reporter Brazil says that in 2012, there were 2,018 requests for sick leave due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The prosecution claims this is well above the average of other companies in the region.

Among other things, the lawsuit demands that Samsung gives more breaks to its employees. “The subjection of workers to 15-hour days is something unacceptable, especially in a company the size of Samsung” said attorney general Luiz Antonio Camargo de Melo.

The Ministry of Labour says if  the situation does not improve, about a fifth of employees will be at risk of developing MSDs in the next five years. It is asking for about £69.6 million in damages, or about 44,000 Brazilian reais per worker.

“Once we receive notification about this case, we will perform an analysis of the process and will cooperate fully with the Brazilian authorities,” responded Samsung in a statement. The company said it is “committed to providing our employees around the world work environment that ensures the highest industry standards regarding safety, health and well-being.”

Earlier this week, Kevin Slaten from China Labour Watch compared conditions in Manaus to those at Samsung and Apple factories in China.

Samsung was previously prosecuted by Brazilian authorities for poor working conditions in 2011, when it paid a settlement of $200,000.

The South Korean company posted a record 7.7 trillion won (£4.49bn) profit during the second quarter of 2013, a year-on-year increase from 5.19 trillion won (£2.8bn), fuelled by strong sales in its display panel and mobile divisions.

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