Imagine standing for 10-15 hours a day. Imagine standing for 10-15 hours a day for 27 days straight without a break. Imagine that during these 10-15 hour days, you are under the pressure of assembling a cell phone in 32 seconds. Oh, but you get a whopping 65 seconds to assemble a TV set when that duty calls, plenty of time. You wouldn’t be imagining too hard at all if you were one of the 6000 workers at Samsung’s Manaus factor in Brazil, the largest of all 25 Samsung factories worldwide and which supplies all of Latin America. At least according to Brazil’s Ministry of Labor prosecutors who are suing Samsung for 108 million USD, these poor working conditions are the case at Manaus. The Ministry gathered these findings while conducting three inspections at Manaus since May 2011. Samsung has since responded to these allegations in saying, “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.” Certainly a typical response from an industry giant like Samsung trying to avoid bad publicity. These types of working conditions are inexcusable and clearly subpar under Brazilian standards. The debate continues over working conditions in poorer countries and what can be done to halt the pervasive culture of taking advantage of a needy people by a powerful business. The Ministry is asking for better working conditions such as 10-minute breaks and places to sit while working.
Is $19,000 a worker enough to cure this wrong? How else should Samsung pay for these subpar standards if the allegations hold up in court? Will big companies like Samsung facing public scrutiny change the way others like them conduct business across the globe?