China: Jabil's Guangzhou factory comes under fire for its employment practices

According to interviews carried out by private investigators with some of Jabil’s workers at the factory – who remained anonymous – conditions for the approximately 6,000 workers have been described as prison-like. The NLC’s report says that the wages of 93 cents per hour do not cover basic living costs for the workers, who, as a result, must work longer hours in an attempt to earn more money. The report also outlines the treatment the workers receive from management and security guards.

It states: “… the team of investigators noted that the Jabil factory has a lot of money and influence in the Guangzhou region. Jabil’s focus is exclusively on meeting and raising production goals. The 6,000 or so employees at Jabil must bend to whatever management wants … Managers and security guards patrol the work areas carrying digital cameras. If they suspect a violation, they take a picture and issue a ‘warning letter’ … Workers who leave their workstations without permission are either given a ‘written warning’ or they are marked absent and docked the entire day’s wages … The day shift runs 12 hours, seven days a week. This schedule puts the young workers at the factory 84 hours a week, while actually toiling 77 hours … This means the workers put in 11 hours of work each day – eight regular and three overtime hours — with just two 30-minute meal breaks. As the regular workweek is 40 hours, these workers are toiling 37 hours of overtime each week, which is in blatant violation of China’s overtime restrictions, which limit overtime to no more than 36 hours a month."

Jabil has reportedly responded by sending in its own team of investigators to assess the situation. It is as yet unclear whether or not an independent team will also be following up the workers’ claims.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Jabil Circuit spokeswoman Beth Walters said the company got its first look at the report [in June] and is reviewing the allegations. "A quick look over this lengthy summary, written by a ‘respected Chinese worker rights activist and scholar, who must remain anonymous,’ paints a very accusatory but not very accurate picture," Jabil said in a statement. "Jabil takes employee working conditions and rights very seriously and has been vigilant about conducting employee surveys to be sure that we are proactively addressing any issues."

Global solar companies, like BP Solar, SunPower and Day4Energy are associated with Jabil, although their activities are not linked to the Chinese factory in question.

At the time of writing, Jabil, the NLC, BP Solar, SunPower and Day4 Energy could not be reached for comment. pv magazine will, however, be investigating this issue further. For example, if the claims prove to be true, how will the solar companies who use Jabil respond to the situation? Will they look for another outsourcing company?

This issue also raises the more general question of how companies can ensure the services they employ from other parties meet acceptable standards for everything from employee rights to product quality.

Jabil’s facilities are located in the U.S., Belgium, Brazil, China, the U.K., Ukraine, France, Austria, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Hungary, Poland, Vietnam and Singapore.

To read the full report, click here.