Giant Taiwanese electronics equipment manufacturer Foxconn has sailed into fresh controversy over working conditions at its plants, this time in Europe.
German-language information technology publication C'T wrote in an article called Shenzen by the Elbe that Foxconn required employees at its factory in Pardubice, Czech Republic, to work twelve-hour shifts six days a week without breaks, under "extreme" productivity pressure, for 500 euro (A$724) a month.
The employees at the Czech factory that makes computers for Hewlett-Packard came from Vietnam, Mongolia and Bulgaria. They did not speak Czech, required interpreters and did not know their basic European Union employee rights, C'T reported.
Workers could earn a 100 euro (A$145) bonus a month, but it depended on how well the entire assembly line performed.
Foxconn management said the company followed all European laws. According to C'T, Foxconn exploited legal loopholes by running parts of the Czech assembly through subcontractors so as to evade sanctions.
The Taiwanese company makes Apple iPhones and iPads and has been criticised for pushing its workers so hard several have committed suicide.
Prompted by the bad publicity around the suicides, Apple chief executive Tim Cook called on Foxconn to improve working conditions at its plants but it isn't known if this has happened.
While the wages in the Pardubice factory are higher than the Czech minimum wage, and more than what workers in Asia earn, locating asemblies in Europe saves on shipment costs. Rioting by workers in Asia protesting inhumane labour conditions along with rising wages were also thought to make central and south-east European countries more attractive to electronics manufacturers.
Foxconn operates two plants in the Czech Republic and makes televisions for Sony in neighbouring Slovakia. C'T said Flextronics built computers for Lenovo in Hungary as well.