The Guardian: “In the Chinese city of Hengyang, we find a fatigued, disposable workforce assembling gadgets for Amazon, owned by the world’s richest man…The Foxconn factory in Hengyang relies on the tried and tested formula of low wages and long hours. But here there is another element: the extensive use of agency workers who don’t have the security of a regular job…Dozens of workers are arriving, casually dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Most are young and there is a good mixture of women and men. Ahead of them lies a 60-hour week, eight regular hours for five days, plus two more of overtime each day and another 10 on Saturday. They will be expected to hit tough targets and must ask permission to use the toilets. The overtime – up to 80 hours a month – is far in excess of the 36 hours stipulated in Chinese labour laws, but companies can and do seek exemptions and workers want the overtime, to boost their basic pay. These are the people who are making the smart speakers and tablets that Amazon hopes to make a fixture in millions more homes around the world this year: the Echo and Echo Dot – which both spring to life when the user addresses them as Alexa – and the Kindles.
These employees – known as dispatch workers in China – are hired in from labour companies as an off-the-shelf workforce. They are generally slightly better-paid than permanent members of staff, but they get no sick pay or holiday pay and can be laid off without any pay at all during quiet months when production drops off. In some ways they resemble the Amazon products they are making: wanted one day and discarded the next.”