Brazil sues Samsung over working conditions

by: Robert TriggsAugust 15, 2013


Working conditions in the manufacturing arm of the technology industry is always a contentious subject, and it looks like Samsung is the next big company to have its practices put under scrutiny.

Brazil’s Ministry of Labor has filed a lawsuit against the technology giant, claiming that the company has violated several of the country’s labor laws at one of its assembly plants. One of the more shocking claims suggests that Samsung has employees working 15 hours a day, with some people spending up to 10 hours on their feet each shift.

These working conditions have supposedly led to over 2,000 work related health problems, which the lawsuit is seeking to compensate with over $100 million in damages filed against Samsung by the Brazilian government.

But this isn’t the first time that Samsung has been accused of abusing its workforce. China Labor Watch detailed six Samsung manufacturing facilities and two of its suppliers which were all accused of “severe labor abuses”. Again, employees were found to be working excessive hours, up to 12 at a time, as well as suffering from physical and verbal abuse. Samsung has also faced several lawsuits in South Korea regarding hazardous working conditions.

Regarding the lawsuit in Brazil, Samsung has stated that it will co-operate with the authorities and that it will be conducting a review once it knows the exact details of the complaint. Here’s the statement from Samsung:

[quote qtext=”we will conduct a thorough review and fully co-operate 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” qperson=”” qsource=”” qposition=”center”]

We’ll have to wait and see how this all turns out, but it’s nonetheless troubling to still be hearing about cases like this, especially considering how many times that similar lawsuits have been brought against various technology companies.

  • End in sight

    I used to work with some guys from S Korea. They had a strong work ethic and did lots of overtime, even though we were at an American firm in LA.

    I asked them once about what seemed to be a difference in our cultural approaches to work. That were friendly, but they basically said that their culture values work, overtime, sacrifice, etc. And that they perceive cultures who work less, to basically be lazy…including the US culture.

    Now, when I think Brazil, I think Carnival, beaches, parties, etc. I Don’t think hard work, strong work ethic, etc. That of course is a generalization.

    All that to say is that there could be some major culture clashes going on here and I hope people on both sides can respect and honor cultures different from their own.

    (Really, that’s a diplomatic way of saying, I hope Samsung can stop pushing cultural values on the rest of the world. [email protected], I don’t mind hard work, but I would never work like those S Koreans… too imbalanced for me… but good for them if that’s what they want for themselves. I won’t try to change them as long as they don’t try to change me.)

    • Deo Reyes

      I agree. S Koreans do have very different work ethics. They value work very seriously.

      • gommer strike

        very well said. A work culture which is not unlike Japanese for getting in early, staying late, and go out drinking with the boss afterward, would be a serious culture clash in other areas of the world, yet it’s standard issue in Korea.

        • Keiko

          As an American who is half Japanese, lives in Japan, and is about to marry a Japanese man, I can honestly say that I know many hard working, intelligent, ambitious Japanese who are tired, have no time to pursue their hobbies, and want to spend time with their new babies and extended families, but cannot because of work. For many , it’s “syoganai” (Can’t be helped)

          Also, they can take time, it’s called “nenkyuu” similar to our vacation time, but everyone works so hard, and they are given so much work that this nenkyuu is usually taken for super special honeymoons, weddings, or going to take care of special things like needing to go to Tokyo to see a specialist doctor.

          East Asian cultures are collectivist cultures where individualism is not praised. You do what is best for the company, if you don’t you will be replaced. Finding a job is hard, and with 120 million people on this island the size of California, there is always someone willing to take your job!

    • abazigal

      And when apple is accused of a similar problem, it’s slave labour.

      • gommer strike

        It’s come full circle. Now Samsung is under the gun, the same way that Apple has come under fire in China.

    • Elton Rabello

      Are you saying Brazillian are lazy based on…? Of course we will always have difference between the cultures, but before that, we have laws and Samsung is against the law, not “lazy” people as you said.

      • gommer strike

        As people are trying to say, there’s a cultural difference.

        No one here can say that the Brazilian way is ‘wrong’. It’s not wrong. It is the Brazilian way, created by Brazilian people. The people will choose what and how they will work for a foreign company on their soil.

        If the Samsung way runs counter to the Brazilian one, and no acceptable compromise that can be reached, well we all know who’s gotta get ejected.