Samsung and Panasonic have now been alleged of labour harassment in their supply chains handling assembly lines in Malaysia. A report by The Guardian reveals the plight of immigrant factory workers in the country. This, however, isn’t the first labour harassment issued raised against a multinational electronics brand. Apple and Sony too have been alleged of such labour exploitation in the past.
Ironically, in all the aforementioned labour harassments cases, the exploited workers were mainly immigrants; and it’s the same in this case. As per the report, most of the workers working in the supply chain of the two of the largest electronics brands are from Nepal. The workers are mainly involved in manufacturing and assembling of household electronics including microwaves. The report alleges that while the work is back breaking and requiring inhumanly long hours of labour and patience, the pay isn’t really up to the mark. In fact, they have been duped to work in such conditions with false promises, and are now trapped in the factories due to debt bondage.
Most of these labour have been recruited by supply chain and subcontracting companies and come via an agent of these chains based in Nepal. In fact, a number of workers alleged that they had to pay a recruitment fee ranging between 90,000 to 1,15,000 Nepali Rupees ($836-$1083 approx.) to get confirmed job in these factories. That said, as these recruitment charges go against the 2015 cap of 10,000 Nepali Rupees set by the government, the labourers were forced to settle down with a receipt of just 10,000 Rupees from the agents. In fact, they were asked to tell immigration officials that they had to play only 10,000 Nepali Rupees just in case they were stopped at the airport. Their miseries didn’t end there, though, as the supply chain barons confiscated their passports soon after they landed in Malaysia thereby forcing them with no option but to work in these factories. Apart from that, the supply chain companies forced the workers to accept a term that forbid them from leaving the job before the expiry of the contract or clearing three months of basic wages as compensation.
Talking in terms of anonymity, a Nepali factory worker revealed that they are forced to work weeks after weeks on 14-hour shift to repay the money they gave to recruitment agents in Nepal. Many alleged that the salary and working conditions aren’t even near to what they were promised by the agents in their homeland. One of the workers, at Samsung Electronics Plant responsible for manufacturing microwaves, alleged that each of them is allowed to stop work only twice in their 12-hour shift to go to the toilet. Apart from that, they have just 45 minutes to eat and just 7 minutes in every two hours to drink water. That said, their woes don’t end after they leave the assembly line, as they have to stay in a shabby accommodation where nearly 14 men are crammed into a small room.
The Nepali labourers working at these assembly lines, however, aren’t the direct employees of Panasonic and Samsung in most cases. Rather, a majority of them have been hired directly by supply chain companies, especially for Panasonic. Samsung, however, directly employs a few of these workers, but the fate is same for all of them. Malaysia is one of those countries where nearly 35% of the country’s export economy is dependent on the electronics sector and this has led to widespread issues of labour harassment in the past. The allegations of labour harassment against Samsung isn’t first for the Korean electronics firm. In fact, along with Apple; Samsung too had been accused of such harassment of workers in China. In both cases, the supply chain company involved was Foxconn.
Samsung and Panasonic have been quick to respond to this report. The electronic firms have, in fact, announced that they will be verifying these claims and will take suitable action against the supply chain companies if they find them at fault.