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Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 10:27 am PT (01:27 pm ET)

Samsung socked with $108M Brazilian suit over alleged labor issues

Brazilian prosecutors have begun legal action against technology giant and Apple rival Samsung, claiming that the South Korean conglomerate's Brazilian arm violated numerous labor laws at a factory in the Amazon region.



Prosecutors in the city of Manaus allege that working conditions at Samsung's factory there are notoriously poor, citing long hours, strict productivity standards, and sometimes unsafe conditions. The prosecutors office is suing for 250 million reais ($108 million) in damages, claiming serious labor violations.

The plant in question — located in the Manaus Free Trade zone — produces Samsung electronics for sale across Latin America, according to Reporter Brasil. It employs some 6,000 workers, and employees say some shifts can last up to 15 hours, with 10-hour days of standing not uncommon. Workers complained of physical aches stemming from the long hours and work conditions.

One worker said that he assembled nearly 3,000 phones per day for the South Korean giant's Brazilian arm. Other workers reported having only 32 seconds to fully assemble a mobile phone and 65 seconds to fully assemble a television set. Some employees were said to work up to 27 days in a row.

Manaus is located in the eastern portion of Amazonas, Brazil's largest state. The city has undergone massive growth in both population and economic health over the years, and it is now home to more than 1.8 million people. A number of major multinational technology firms, such as Samsung, LG, and Phillips, have made a presence there.

The manufacture of smartphones and electronics, like many consumer items, has become the target of criticism, as the workers that assemble those devices many times do not enjoy living standards comparable to those of the people that buy them. Like its chief rival, Apple, Samsung has in the past had to deal with assorted labor violations among its many suppliers' factories. The Manaus facility, though, is said to be run by Samsung, not a supplier as in the case with Apple.

As its products have grown more popular, Apple has endeavored to improve labor conditions for the people working in its own worldwide network of suppliers. The Cupertino company, under some pressure from observers, has called for shorter work hours and better overall conditions for its suppliers' employees, going so far as to terminate contracts when suppliers violate the company's labor standards.

Samsung, in a statement, said that it would take a look at the allegations and cooperate fully with Brazilian authorities.

"We are committed to offering our collaborators around the world a work environment that ensures the highest standards when it comes to safety, health and well-being," the statement said.