Ford Motor Co. plans to investigate complaints that the employees of a supplier in China are working under very hazardous conditions.
“We take these allegations seriously and are investigating the situation. Ford has a strong commitment to human rights and workplace safety, and we expect our suppliers to comply with local laws and our Code of Basic Working Conditions,” Ford said in a statement.
“We require all of our suppliers to ensure that our products – no matter where they are made – are manufactured under conditions that demonstrate respect for the people who make them,” added Ford spokesman Todd Nissen.
Worker abuses have proven common in many Chinese companies as the nation’s economic boom continues heating up, but situation has generally been considered less severe in the automotive sector — at least until now.
The Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights released a new report “Dirty Parts/Where Lost Fingers Come Cheap: Ford in China,” which documents worker rights violations — including workers maimed when factory management turned off critical safety equipment — at the Yuwei Plastics and Hardware Products company in Dongguan, China. Eighty percent of the factory’s production is purchased by Ford. Yuwei also has a U.S. office and warehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Yuwei workers earn a base wage of 80 cents an hour, while working 14-hour shifts seven days a week. During the peak season, workers toil 30 days a month, often drenched in their own sweat. Prospective hires are told they must “work hard and endure hardship,” the institute said.
The report highlighted the case of one 21-year, who had three fingers torn from his left hand when it was crushed in a stamping machine. He was making “RT Tubes” for export to Ford, and supervisors had instructed the worker to turn off the infrared safety monitoring system so he could work faster. “We had to turn it off. My boss did not let me turn it on,” said Worker A. He had to stamp out 3,600 “RT Tubes” a day, one every 12 seconds.
The Institute for Global Labour’s report said it is aware of at least four serious injuries.
Seriously injured workers are fired. New workers receive no training or safety instruction before being assigned to operate dangerous machinery.
The injured “Worker A” received a total payment of just $7,430 for the loss of three fingers, leaving his hand basically inoperative. Workers Compensation for a similar accident in the U.S. would result in a $144,292 payment.
“While millions of democracy advocates are launching protests across the Middle East and North Africa, workers at the Yuwei factory have never heard of a ‘union’ and have no idea what a union is or how it could help them,” said Charles Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights
Kernaghan has asked Ford to pay Worker A an additional workers compensation payment of $72,126.40, which is just half of what workers compensation would be in the U.S.
“Ford should not be complicit in the payment of below subsistence wages and the suppression of local and internationally recognized worker rights standards,” he said.
Complaints of mistreatment have been common in China’s electronics factories. Apple Computer was embroiled in scandal, last year, when its major Chinese assembler, Foxconn, was implicated in another labor abuse situation that saw a large number of its workers commit suicide. The Chinese company has since taken some steps to reduce its problems.
Abuse problems are less common in the country’s rapidly expanding automotive sector, but are still being seen as a potentially serious issue.
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