Brazilian government accuses Samsung of violating labor laws, sues for $108 million

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Samsung is being sued for $108 million in damages by the Brazilian government for violating labor laws at its factory located in the Manaus free trade zone, where nearly 6,000 people are employed. The suit was filed late last week, and contains evidence of long shifts without breaks, and staff with health problems arising from them.

According to Reporter Brasil, a human rights website, workers at the factory have just six seconds to pack a box with a phone charger, headset and a pair of instruction manuals, and the same task is repeated as many as 6,800 times per day. The total amount if time it takes to assemble a smartphone package is 85 seconds, while a television is placed in a box every 4.8 seconds.

During an investigation by Brazil’s Ministry of Labor, it was discovered workers were spending 10 hours a day standing, shifts lasting up to 15 hours, and at least one who hadn’t had a break for 27 days. In addition to the damages, the lawsuit demands workers receive a 10 minute break for every 50 minutes of work. Last year, more than 2000 employees logged health complaints related to tendonitis and back problems. The attorney general in Brazil is quoted as saying 15 hour days are unacceptable, particularly for a company of Samsung’s size. In an interview with the site, a co-ordinator for the China Labor Watch group said the working conditions in the Brazilian factory were similar to those in China.

Samsung has issued a brief statement, published by the BBC, saying, “We’re committed to offering our collaborators around the world a work environment that ensures the highest standards when it comes to safety, health and well-being.” It also said it would fully cooperate with the Brazilian government.

Late last month, a report showed Samsung made $5.2 billion in profits between April and June this year from its mobile division alone, and shipped 386 million phones. It stated high demand in Latin America played a major part in its impressive performance. Brazil’s Manaus factory is the primary supplier of Samsung products to Latin America.