Case studies of Samsung, LGE and Foxconn

Brazilian labour legislation is considered to be among the most comprehensive in the world. Companies are pressured to comply with labour law through so called “Conduct Adjustment Agreements”. Brazilian trade unions enjoy substantial leverage and their position is protected and enforced by law.

This research focused on the question of whether working conditions in the Brazilian electronics factories of Samsung, LG and Foxconn, correspond to working conditions in their factories in low-cost countries. There, trade unions are non-existent or severely hampered in their functioning, and authorities lack the capacity to properly implement labour laws.

This was indeed the case: the low-cost manufacturing model had been copy-pasted to Brazil, with the same kinds of labour violations taking place. However, in Brazil the companies were prosecuted and fined for violating Brazilian labour law. Some of the substandard labour conditions, have been effectively addressed by labour prosecutors and unions. Improvements were seen related to excessive working hours, overtime hours, the inappropriate use of temporary labour and in the regulation of breaks. Nonetheless, even though the wages are above the minimum wage, they are still below a living wage for a family of four.

Moreover, violations concerning unhealthy working conditions remain: ergonomic failures in the workstations and fast and repetitive work still lead to musculoskeletal disorders in the Brazilian factories of the three companies. Workers also continue to experience harassment and a “culture of fear”.

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