Conditions at Samsung Factory Highlight Importance of Labor Laws
Apple has gotten lots of attention in recent years over allegations of poor working conditions in Chinese factories that produce iPhones and iPads. Now Samsung, Apple’s main rival, is in the spotlight for alleged labor violations in Brazil.
Brazil’s Labor Ministry is seeking US$108 million in damages for what it describes as “serious” labor violations in the Manaus factory of the world’s largest smartphone maker. Among other violations, the lawsuit alleges that the 6,000 workers at the factory have been exposed to risks of illnesses due to intense, repetitive work.
According to the Labor Ministry, it has verified that workers perform three times more movements per minutes than what ergonomic studies consider safe, that many employees work as many as 10 hours a day while standing, and that in 2012 more than 2,000 workers suffered from health problems resulting from poor working conditions.
The CLT Protects the Rights of Brazilian Employees
The Brazilian Consolidation of Labor Laws (Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho or CLT) governs labor activities in Brazil. The CLT guarantees a long list of rights to employees in Brazil. It limits working hours, provides for paid vacations and a “13th salary,” and establishes maternity and paternity leave.
Hiring employees in Brazil is widely considered to be expensive. The taxes and fees involved in hiring an employee can almost double the employee’s salary. For this reason, companies frequently hire individuals as freelancers even though they are performing the functions of a full-time employee. While employers may pay less up front, the legal risk is quite high. At the end, the employer could be subject to immense fees and fines if it is determined by a labor court that the contracted party is not a freelancer but rather an employee of the company.
The Importance of Brazilian Labor Laws
Like other countries, Brazil has a long and difficult history when it comes to labor matters. While it may appear that hiring employees is expensive, Brazil’s labor laws have a valuable purpose.
Labor laws exist for the protection of both the employer and the employee. The goal is to make the employer/employee relationship as equal as possible in light of the economic position of both parties in the employment relationship. Compliance with labor laws, particularly those that deal with the health and safety of workers, is an important recognition of the social value of employees and the importance of fair treatment and compensation.