By Patrick Avenell
Hong Kong-based telephone manufacturer VTech, the company that supplies and distributes Telstra-branded cordless phones in Australia, has issued a detailed response into allegations of appalling working conditions at its mainland China factories.
These allegations were first aired by other media outlets last Thursday (21 June 2012), and resulted in Telstra instructing its dealers to take VTech-manufactured stock off their shelves.
Two of the charges made by chief accuser, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, are flatly rejected by VTech: that employees are being cheated out of up to $12.3 million per year in benefits and that security guards at the factories “often beat workers”.
VTech does go into considerable detail in response to several of the claims, as detailed below:
At VTech, 30,000 workers toil 12 to 15 hours a day, from 7:30AM to 7:30PM or 10:30PM. All overtime is mandatory, exceeding China's overtime limit by 237 to 273 percent:
We adopt two shifts in our factories. The working hour for day shift is from 8:00AM to 5:00PM, while the working hour for night shift is from 8:00PM to 5:00AM. Both shifts include a one hour meal break. All overtime work is voluntary and compliant to the Labour Law in China.
Workers are forced to stand all day:
For lean manufacturing, it is common workers are standing for work. All workers are entitled to have a one hour meal break and a 10 minutes break once in every 2 hours.
Other responses from VTech include an affirmation that the company meets and exceeds its minimum wage requirement (US $1.09 per hour) and that the company abides by China’s laws regarding payment for all work carried out.
Interestingly, the most detailed response of all is to accusations that the food served at VTech factories is awful and the potatoes are rotten. Here is the full response:
"VTech’s canteen provides at least 12 different dishes at affordable prices for workers. The company charges at cost only. Steamed rice is provided at no additional charge and on an unlimited basis. Employees’ Welfare Committees check the food quality regularly. They also organise workers to monitor the quality of the food in order to achieve continuous improvement."